The Latest: First ladies criticize border family separation

The Latest: First ladies criticize border family separation
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and immigration (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

Former first lady Michelle Obama is adding her voice to the rising chorus of criticism of the Trump administration’s policy of family separation at the border.

On Twitter Monday, Michelle Obama re-tweeted a message from former first lady Laura Bush promoting a column she wrote decrying the policy. Obama added: “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

Laura Bush is the wife of Republican President George W. Bush. She called the separation policy “cruel” and “immoral” in a guest column for The Washington Post Sunday.

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1:43 p.m.

About 80 immigrants who were arrested at the border in recent days appeared in court Monday to plead guilty to immigration charges. Lawyers say they brought about two dozen children with them.

Some of the immigrants pointedly asked the judge questions such as “What’s going to happen to my daughter?” and “What will happen to my son?” The judge responded by saying he didn’t know and he cannot make any promises about what happens next.

Hearings like this happen on a regular basis in federal courtrooms along the border now that the Trump administration is prosecuting anyone crossing the border under a new “zero tolerance” policy. The parents who bring children with them are sent to court, while children go to government facilities.

The Monday hearing in McAllen, Texas, involved migrants who attempted to cross the border in recent days — amid growing outrage over the Trump administration policy of separating parents from their children.

–By Nomaan Merchant

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The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes that refugee and migrant children “must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Monday that Guterres, who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief for 10 years before becoming secretary-general, believes “family unity must be preserved.”

Dujarric said that as a matter of principle Guterres believes “that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity and in accordance with existing international law.”

“This is not a position he has specifically vis a vis the United States,” he said in response to a question of whether this was aimed at the Trump administration. “This is a principled position that he has for the way migrants and refugees are treated the world over.”

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1:29 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is among the latest Republicans to speak out against the Trump administration’s policy of family separation at the border, writing that children “shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool.”

Bush tweets that President Donald Trump “should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”

The former governor, who was among Trump’s opponents in the 2016 primaries, has said that crossing the border illegally is often an “act of love.”

He is just the latest member of the Bush family to weigh in on the family separation controversy. Former first lady Laura Bush called the policy “cruel” and “immoral” in a guest column for the Washington Post Sunday.

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12:31 p.m.

Defending his administration’s harsh immigration policies, President Donald Trump says the U.S. won’t be a “migrant camp” or “refugee holding facility.”

Says Trump: “Not on my watch.”

Unbowed by mounting bipartisan criticism of a policy that separates some immigrant children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump says, “I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault.”

Speaking before an event on U.S. space policy, Trump says there is “death and destruction” caused by people in the U.S. illegally.

He says: “A country without borders is not a country at all.”

Trump has blamed Democrats for the separation of families at the border and is pressuring them to negotiate with Republicans on an immigration bill. But the separations are a consequence of the Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy, announced in April, which maximizes criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. That means more adults are jailed, pending trial, so their children are removed from them.

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12:30

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Republicans have a moral and legal responsibility to end a policy that has led to children being separated from their families along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Pelosi says that ripping vulnerable children away from their parents is “an utter atrocity that debases America’s values and our legacy as a beacon of hope, opportunity and freedom.”

President Donald Trump has sought to blame Democrats for the family separations, but Pelosi says the “blame for every mistreated child, heartbroken mother and father and broken family rests squarely on the President, and only he can end the trauma.”

She calls on Trump to “immediately rescind this barbarous policy.”

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11:31 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says law enforcement officials do not want to separate parents from their children.

Sessions was speaking Monday in New Orleans at the National Sheriff’s Association conference. He says enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from parents is necessary.

Sessions in April announced a zero-tolerance policy where anyone coming across the border will be prosecuted. That means children must be taken from their parents at the border because children can’t be sent to jail. He says without enforcing the laws, “we encourage hundreds of thousands of people year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country.”

Sessions echoed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s calls for Congress to change the nation’s immigration laws.

He says the country is “dedicated to caring for children.”

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11:30 a.m.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the convention center in New Orleans where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is speaking about U.S. immigration policies.

The demonstrators were rallying against the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

New Orleans resident Anjali Niyogi came to the protest holding her 1½-year-old daughter. She said she was moved to come by seeing the images of children who’d been locked up and separated from their parents.

She called it “traumatizing for the children” as well as the parents.

Demonstrators chanted slogans and held signs calling on the government to “Free the kids! Reunite the Families!

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10:15 a.m.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from their parents.

Nielsen was speaking Monday at the National Sheriff’s Association conference in New Orleans. Last month, Homeland Security began referring all cases of illegal entry to the Justice Department for prosecution. Nielsen says agents are not acting cruelly, but are enforcing the laws passed by Congress. She says past administrations asked immigration agents to look the other way when families crossed the border illegally, but no longer.

The policy has resulted in nearly 2,000 minors separated from their families over six weeks, and is drawing strong criticism from lawmakers from both parties and advocates who call the tactic inhumane.

Nielsen says agents shouldn’t apologize for doing their jobs.

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10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is asserting that children “are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth” as a way to enter the United States along the southern border.

He tweets, “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border,” calling it “historic.”

Trump has been pushing back against criticism of his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has led to children being separated from their families along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

He is pointing the finger at Democrats, faulting them “for being weak and ineffective” on immigration.

But it’s not the Democrats’ law. There is no law mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. And Trump’s own Republican Party controls both chambers of Congress.

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9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is rejecting criticism that his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy has caused family separations at the U.S. southern border, pointing to crime in Germany and gangs in the U.S. as the reason tough laws are necessary.

He tweeted: “We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!”

This spring, the Trump administration ordered prosecutors to charge every person illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers.

Trump blamed Democrats for not fixing the law, despite the GOP being divided on the issue and unable to agree on an immigration plan. He tweeted: “Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?”

Several high-profile killings in Germany in which migrants were suspects made national headlines. But according to official crime statistics released last month, crime in Germany dropped nearly 10 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year.

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8:50 a.m.

Former Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci says it “doesn’t feel right” for the Trump administration to blame Democrats for separating parents and children at the southern border as a way of pressuring Democrats into negotiating on a Republican immigration bill.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday, “The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on Border Security & Safety. Don’t wait until after the election because you are going to lose!”

But Scaramucci noted on CNN Monday that Republicans control the House, Senate and presidency. Using the separation of children and parents “as a leverage point or a negotiating point…just doesn’t feel right,” he said.

Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which directs Homeland Security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the United States for prosecution.

Scaramucci told CNN that images of children being taken from these parents or in holding areas “is very, very bad for the Republican party and it’s very bad for the president.”

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4:16 a.m.

The emotional policy of separating children from their parents is also starting to divide Republicans and their allies as Democrats turn up the pressure.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the policy “cruel” and “immoral” while GOP Sen. Susan Collins expressed concern about it and a former adviser to President Donald Trump said he thought the issue was going to hurt the president at some point. Religious groups, including some conservative ones, are protesting.

This pressure is coming as White House officials have tried to distance themselves from the policy. Trump blames Democrats falsely for the situation. The administration put the policy in place and could easily end it after it has led to a spike in cases of split and distraught families.

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