tim scott lindsey graham (copy) (copy)

U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (left) and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

South Carolina's two Republican U.S. senators have staked out their views on the Trump administration's handling of the child and family crisis on the Mexican border.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he stands behind Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen amid growing controversy over separating migrant children from their parents.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said he disagrees with the practice now in place.

"I do not support a policy of categorically separating children from their parents at the border," Scott said in a tweet Tuesday.

He added, "Without a doubt, we must secure our border, eliminate loopholes that encourage illegal immigration, and resist attempts to return to ‘catch and release’.

"The path that led us to this point is a complicated one, with multiple laws and court decisions muddying the waters, and Congress needs to come together to find a path forward," he added. "We can and must do better."

Scott's statement came after Graham tweeted his support for how the administration, specifically the Department of Homeland Security leadership, is handling the matter.

"I strongly stand behind @DHSGov Secretary Nielsen and her effort to solve a long-standing problem," he tweeted.

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"She is hard-working, incredibly smart, and passionate. She is the right person at the right time. Her resignation would only serve to make this problem more difficult to solve," Graham said.

Graham's support comes as at least 10 Democratic lawmakers have called on Nielsen to resign.

Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill frantically searched on Tuesday for ways to end the administration's policy of separating families after illegal border crossings, ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss broader immigration legislation.

Top conservatives, including key Trump allies, announced they were introducing bills to stop the practice amid a public outcry over the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal crossings.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation that the White House said it was reviewing, and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, also introduced a measure.

Both bills were offered as alternatives in case broader GOP immigration legislation heading for a vote this week fails, as is likely. "This becomes a backup proposal," Meadows told reporters at the White House.

Trump's meeting late Tuesday with House Republicans comes as lawmakers in both parties are up in arms after days of news reports showing images of children being held at border facilities in cages and an audio recording of a young child pleading for his "Papa."

Under the current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

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