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Trump faces outrage over policy of separating migrant families, blames Democrats

An estimated 2,000 children have been separated from their families since the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy went into effect in May, a policy that has caused unease even among Republicans.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2018 23:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,US immigration policy,Camps for migrant children
People protest the policy of separating families at the border outside the Ernest N Morial Convention Center in New Orleans where Attorney General Jeff Sessions was addressing the National Sheriffs' Association on June 18, 2018.(AP)

Facing outrage over his administration’s policy of separating children from parents who have illegally migrated to the US, President Donald Trump on Monday falsely blamed Democrats for the procedure.

“Why don’t the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?” he tweeted.

An estimated 2,000 children have been separated from their families since the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy went into effect in May. Reports from Texas said hundreds of immigrants, including children, were detained in cages created by metal fencing after being separated from their families. BBC reported that the immigrants are calling the facility La Perrera, which translates to “dog kennel”.

Images of the detention camp have resulted in a furore from both Democrats and Republicans.

“They call it ‘zero tolerance,’ but a better name for it is zero humanity, and there’s zero logic to this policy,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, after leading a group of Democratic lawmakers to the Mexican border.

Though Republican lawmakers have been mostly silent, there is growing unease among them as well on the issue and some of them are speaking speak out. In an interview to CBS on Sunday, senator Susan Collins held the administration directly responsible for the policy, saying it had decided “to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you”.

“That’s traumatising to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country,” she said.

Former first lady Laura Bush, who has rarely offered her views on policy issues in public, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday: “I live in a border state (Texas). 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.”

Bush compared the policy to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War 2, which she called “one of the most shameful episodes in US history”.

On Sunday, an SUV crashed in her state of Texas during a chase by border agents, killing at least five people including suspected illegal migrants. The SUV was carrying 14 people when lost control while being driven at more than 100mph and overturned, ejecting most of the occupants.

As the uproar over the policy raged, even First Lady Melania Trump made a rare policy intervention, saying in a statement on Sunday that she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together”.

Democrats have argued that if Trump really wanted, he can stop the separation of children from their families immediately, but is using their plight to garner support for his immigration plan that includes tougher border security — including a wall on the southern border with Mexico — and an end to family-based immigration.

The real dissension Trump faces is in his own party. The House of Representatives is currently considering two Republican-crafted immigration legislations — one by party hardliners and the other by moderate lawmakers.

While Republicans control the House and the Senate and should be able to pass any legislation, they are unable to overcome their own differences. Though Trump backs both bills, the one cobbled together by moderates is reported to have the best chance of passing.

The two differ on the fate of undocumented children brought as children — the moderate bill gives them a path to citizenship, the other one doesn’t. But they both give Trump his tough immigration measures and broadly allow children to be detained with their parents to be handed over to a relative.

Trump is scheduled to meet Republicans on Tuesday to discuss these bills and the question of the separation of children is bound to figure prominently.

First Published: Jun 18, 2018 23:34 IST