Washington (AFP) – US officials have separated 2,342 children from their parents at the border with Mexico since shortly before a “zero tolerance” policy targeting illegal immigration was announced in early May, officials said Monday.
President Donald Trump is facing growing outrage over the policy, including from lawmakers within his own Republican Party, as well as the United Nations and rights and advocacy groups.
The Department of Homeland Security figure — for separations from May 5 until June 9 — represents “about 70 children a day,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen tweeted.
“This is abhorrent and a living nightmare for these families.”
The number, which Shaheen said was shared with Congress, is substantially higher than the 1,995 who the DHS last week said were separated from parents or adult guardians during a longer, six-week period from mid-April until the end of May.
Critics warn of rights abuses at overcrowded processing and detention centers near the US southern border in Texas, where children are being held in chain-link enclosures that Democratic lawmakers have described as “cages.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the zero tolerance policy on May 7, rushed to defend the approach, saying bringing family members across the border does not provide an unauthorized migrant “blanket immunity” from US law.
“When we ignore our laws at the border, we obviously encourage hundreds of thousands of people a year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country,” Sessions said.