President Donald Trump is standing by his administration’s highly controversial decision to separate children from parents facing prosecution for illegally crossing the border into the United States.
Trump has repeatedly lied about his administration’s role in family separations at the border ― and Monday was no different.
In a series of tweets, he echoed a familiar ― and false ― talking point his administration has used in reference to its immigration policy: blaming Democrats for border control officials taking thousands of children away from their parents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May the zero-tolerance policy, under which families apprehended after crossing the border without authorization are separated so the adults can be jailed rather than kept together and put directly into immigration proceedings.
This tactic of putting undocumented children in shelters while their parents are prosecuted has little to do with Democrats and was not employed during Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump could end the separation of children and parents at any moment. Yet he continued to blame Democrats on Monday while speaking at a National Space Council meeting at the White House.
“I say it’s — very strongly — the Democrats’ fault,” Trump said. “The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be.”
“If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly ― good for the children, good for the country, good for the world,” he continued. “We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world. ... You see about child separation. You see what’s going on there. But just remember, a country without borders is not a country at all.”
Several Trump administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, on Monday continued to peddle the falsehood that a family separation policy does not occur. Yet a Department of Homeland Security official confirmed this month that border officials separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults from April 19 to May 31.
Backlash over family separation and the Trump administration’s obvious lies about enforcing such a policy has been growing on both sides of the aisle, including from several prominent conservatives.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called on Trump to end family separation during an appearance Friday on CNN.
“President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call,” Graham said. “I’ll go tell him. If you don’t like families’ being separated, you can tell DHS, ‘Stop doing it.’”
Former first lady Laura Bush issued a rare castigation of the Trump administration in a Washington Post opinion piece on Sunday, calling family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border “immoral” and drawing parallels to World War II internment camps.
“We pride ourselves on acceptance,” she wrote. “If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place. People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.”
Even fervent Trump supporter and former Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly spoke out against the tactic, calling it a “disaster for the Trump administration” in a series of tweets Monday.