State and local activists, as well as his own supporters, took President Trump to task for a policy that has resulted in thousands of immigrant children being taken from their parents on the US-Mexico border.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled out the administration’s zero-tolerance policy and announced the Justice Department would begin prosecuting anyone who crosses the Southwest border illegally.
Under the new policy, anyone traveling with children is detained. The adults are charged with a crime, but the children are not, which means they are detained separately.
According to CNN, 2,700 children have been taken from their parents.
“From any angle that you look at it, it is immoral, unethical and inhumane,” said Pablo Alvarado, a local immigration activist. “Trump is trying to force the Democrats to pay for his border wall. To obtain that goal by causing children to suffer is appalling.”
During his presidential campaign in 2016, Trump promised to build a wall along the 1,900-mile-long US-Mexico border.
He also called Mexicans rapists and thugs and promised to crack down on sanctuary cities, communities where law enforcement officials do not ask people they encounter about their immigration status.
“Trump is using the grief, tears and pain of these kids as mortar to build his wall, and extort a bill to his liking in Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena). “And by accepting the president’s many falsehoods about what is required to end this policy, the GOP in Congress has become the party of lies.”
Criticism of the policy has come from both sides of the aisle.
“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with your children your children are going to be ripped away from you,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on “CBS Sunday.” “That’s traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”
According to CNN, some Border Patrol agents are lying to families about why and how long they’re being separated from their children. According to the Washington Post, parents were told their children were just being taken away briefly for questioning. In several cases, the Post reported, children were taken “by Border Patrol agents who said they were going to give them a bath. As the hours passed, it dawned on the mothers the kids were not coming back.”
On Monday, Trump doubled down on the policy and placed the blame on Democrats who he claimed were responsible for the policy because they continue to obstruct his efforts to build a wall.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be. You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places, we can’t allow that to happen to the United States, not on my watch.”
Sessions quoted Scriptures to explain the reasoning behind the detainments.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”
Some of Sessions’ many critics over that use of the Bible contend opponents of the American Revolution and Southerners fighting to maintain the right to keep slaves also cited Scriptures to justify their behavior.
Perhaps more significantly along that vein, the Trump administration is taking heat from some of its more stalwart supporters: evangelical Christians.
Although he did not directly blame the president, the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and a staunch defender of Trump, said “I think it’s disgraceful” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “It’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” The New York Times reported.
On June 1, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities were among a coalition to write a letter to Trump urging the president to “protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger,” according to The New York Times.
According to documents obtained by CNN, Homeland Security referred to the effort on the border crackdown as the “Prosecution Initiative,” predicting separating families would act as a deterrent to other migrants considering entering the country illegally.
“The full impact of policy initiatives are not fully realized for (two to three) weeks following public messaging — however, some migrants already under way may temporarily halt to determine the effects of the new policy,” the document claims.
However, data indicates otherwise. There has been a 5 percent increase in the number of people — including unaccompanied children — caught crossing the border illegally since April, according to CNN.
Almost 1,500 migrant boys are being housed at Casa Padre, a converted Walmart in Brownsville, Texas. According to the Los Angeles Times, as of June 13, 1,469 boys were being held there. The facility is only licensed to hold 1,200 migrant youth, but was recently granted a variance by state officials to extend the capacity. The Post reported the facility is licensed to house children between the ages of 10-17.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the policy on Monday while speaking to a gathering of the National Sheriffs’ Association.
“We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” Neilsen said. “Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get-out-of-jail-free cards.”
In order to help parents learn about their children’s whereabouts, the Department of Immigration and Custom Enforcement, (ICE) has produced a flyer — written in English — instructing migrants what number to call for information on their children.