You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Trump Defends Family Separation Policy as Former First Ladies Call for It to End

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump defended an administration policy that has seen almost 2,000 children separated from their parents at the border, amid increased media coverage that included images of kids housed in indoor warehouse spaces behind chain-link fences.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, appearing in the White House briefing room, told reporters that the problem was loopholes in the law that prevented the ability to detain full family units.

“Those who criticize the implementation of our laws offer only one countermeasure — open borders,” she said, adding that there is a “lot of misinformation” as to what the Department of Homeland Security is doing.

“This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action,” she said.

Four former first ladies have condemned the policy, the most recent being Rosalynn Carter, who called it “disgraceful and a shame to our country.”

Trump gave no indication that he was taking steps to end the policy.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp and will not be a refugee-holding facility,” Trump said at the White House, while he again tried to cast blame on Democrats, claiming that they are “obstructing.”

In fact, the separation of children from their parents was triggered when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy in which all of those who illegally enter the U.S. are charged and then prosecuted. That in turn led to the separation of the children from their parents, as is policy for those who face felony misdemeanors.

“We need borders. We need security. We need safety. We have to take care of our people,” Trump said, as he called for a merit-based immigration policy and warned that those who sneak across the border “could be murderers and thieves and so much else.”

The issue has gotten substantial coverage in the media in recent weeks, and late-night hosts have chimed in on it. Samantha Bee was making a point about it last month when she referred to Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, with a sexual expletive. She later apologized. Last week, Stephen Colbert did an extended segment that called out the administration for using “cruelty as a deterrent.”

Over the weekend, more reporters got access to detention facilities and networks were able to broadcast images of what was happening. Gayle King was there for “CBS This Morning” on Monday and Lester Holt will anchor from McAllen, Texas, on Monday evening. ProPublica obtained audio of children from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, and some reporters listened to it in the briefing room before Nielsen’s press conference.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, who rarely comments on divisive political issues, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Sunday. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” she wrote. Carter, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton followed with their own critical comments

Clinton said in a speech, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children suffer onto me. He did not say, ‘Let the little children suffer.'”

First Lady Melania Trump’s spokeswoman issued a statement to CNN on Sunday in which she said that the first lady “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called on Nielsen to resign, saying “under her watch, our government has committed human rights abuses by breaking up families along the southern border. And she has ​failed to be accountable to and transparent with the American people.”

Nielsen, however, said that the children “are not being used as a pawn. We are trying to protect the children.”

She continued to insist that the administration is merely enforcing the law, even resisting the idea that they have the discretion to keep families together, or that they are using the crisis to serve as a deterrent so more families do not show up at the border to gain entry into the United States.

“Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does this?” she said.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny asked her, “How is it not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are indeed being separated from their parents?”

Nielsen said that the “vast majority” of the total number of children under the supervision of federal officials — about 10,000 of 12,000 — were sent to the border area without their parents.

Zeleny pressed her again, asking her about reports of family separation. “I am not in a position to deal with hearsay stories,” she said.

After Nielsen’s remarks to the media, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) issued a statement in which she said that it was “not acceptable” to “blame previous administrations for a wrong committed today.”

“The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families,” she said.

More Politics

  • HRC, UCLA to Host Presidential Candidates

    Human Rights Campaign, UCLA to Host Presidential Candidates Forum on LGBTQ Issues

    The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and UCLA are teaming up to host a forum in October for Democratic presidential candidates focused on LGBTQ issues. The event will take place on Oct. 10 in UCLA’s Royce Hall, and will be part of UCLA’s Luskin Lecture Series from the university’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. National Coming [...]

  • Devin Nunes

    Devin Nunes Files $250 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Twitter

    U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday, alleging that he has been the victim of hundreds of hate-filled tweets. The suit also takes aim at Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has attacked Nunes on Twitter, and the anonymous accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Peter Jackson: New Zealanders Stand 'United in Our Love' in Wake of Mosque Attacks

    “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson said Saturday that he and his fellow New Zealanders “stand united in our love and support for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters” in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left at least 49 people dead. “New Zealanders are devastated,” Jackson [...]

  • Steven Mnuchin

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Grilled Over Interest in Wife's Production Company

    WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked in a Senate hearing about a continued potential interest in Stormchaser Films, the production company founded by his wife, Louise Linton. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a hearing on Thursday that the concern is that “there has been [...]

  • Police keep watch at a park

    At Least 49 Killed in Terrorist Attack on Two New Zealand Mosques

    Armed attacks Friday on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed at least 49 people and injured dozens of others in what authorities called an act of terrorism. Four people – three men and one woman – were in custody Friday evening, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. One of them, reported to be [...]

  • Anti-Brexit remain in the European Union

    British Parliament Decides to Ask for Delay to Brexit

    The British Parliament has voted to ask for a delay to the U.K.’s exit from the European Union in a bid for more time to get squabbling lawmakers behind a deal on the terms of the withdrawal. The U.K. is currently due to leave the E.U. on March 29, but Thursday evening’s 412-202 vote in [...]

  • President Donald Trump listens to a

    N.Y. Appeals Court Rules Trump Can't Avoid Summer Zervos' Defamation Suit

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is not immune from a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, even as his lawyers argued that the case should at least be deferred until the end of his term, a New York appeals court ruled on Thursday. Trump’s attorneys had argued that the Supremacy Clause of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content