Murkowski and Sullivan call for halt to separation of parents and children at U.S. border

Both of Alaska's U.S. senators said Monday that they want to stop a Trump administration policy that separates parents and children caught illegally crossing the border with Mexico.

Lisa Murkowski, in a prepared statement, called on the administration to immediately end what she described as the "cruel, tragic" practice, as Dan Sullivan, in his own statement, called for a more deliberate "bipartisan approach."

"The attorney general and secretary of homeland security should make the call today," Murkowski, a Republican, was quoted as saying. "If the administration does not fix this and fast, we in Congress must."

The statements came amid escalating outrage over a six-week-old Trump administration policy that's led to a sharp increase in separations.

Murkowski's comments were significantly stronger than what she said Thursday, when she told reporters she had concerns about the policy.

[Voices in both parties call for halt to practice of separating families at border]

A spokeswoman for Murkowski, Karina Peterson, didn't immediately respond when asked if the senator would support legislation from U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, to ban the family separations.

Sullivan, who's also a Republican, said in his prepared statement that the practice of separating parents from children is "heartbreaking."

"We are a country of laws, but also a country of values and humanity. Finding the right balance is key and I'll work hard with my colleagues to do that," the statement quoted Sullivan as saying.

Sullivan said the government's default position should be to keep families together. But he also said the problem requires a bipartisan approach to keep kids with parents while also tightening the immigration policy of former President Barack Obama's administration, which Sullivan described as "catch and release."

Sullivan called for a "legislative solution" to speed up immigration proceedings without splitting up families. He said that requires more money for things like immigration judges and new facilities where parents and children can stay together.

Sullivan is reviewing Feinstein's legislation and a separate proposal announced Monday by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

U.S. Rep. Don Young thinks it's possible to secure the border "while keeping families together," his spokeswoman, Murphy McCullough, said in an email late Monday.

"The congressman is sympathetic to the separation of families and remains committed to ensuring humane treatment of families that are in the process," she wrote. And, she said, Young thinks there are "practical solutions to avoid separating children during detention and looks forward to considering legislation that accommodates family unity."