U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s office says that the Kansas Republican privately met with the secretary of Homeland Security the day before her office moved forward with a plan to end family separations at the southern border.
"He believes the meeting with Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen helped bring this to a head," said Yoder spokesman C.J. Grover.
Yoder was one of many Republican and Democratic lawmakers who in recent days condemned the practice of separating children from their parents after they had been caught entering the country illegally.
Neither the White House nor the department immediately commented on whether Yoder’s meeting played any role in the administration's decision to halt family separations.
President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he would sign an executive action ending the practice following broad bipartisan backlash. The order would no longer separate parents from their children after they cross the border, but it would allow for mothers and children to be detained together for an indefinite period of time, a solution Yoder supports.
Yoder’s one-on-one meeting over lunch with Nielsen on Tuesday was scheduled when he was elevated to chair the subcommittee with budget oversight over her agency. But it happened to take place after Yoder sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding a stop to the family separations, which were the result of the administration’s decision to pursue criminal charges against the parents.
“I made the case to Secretary Nielsen that Congress is working on a long-term solution to give her the tools to secure our border while keeping families together at the same time, but that the Administration should suspend the practice while we completed our work,” Yoder said in a statement.
“The trauma inflicted on these kids is too big a price to pay," Yoder said. "I left feeling positive and am pleased to see executive action is imminent.”
Yoder's office said that the congressman had been working behind the scenes to resolve the issue and lost patience this week, prompting the letter to Sessions.
The private lunch meeting took place at Department of Homeland Security headquarters.