President Donald Trump has made it clear that Democrats were responsible for laws that he has instructed the Department of Justice to more rigorously enforce that separate families at the border.
“I know what you’re going through right now with families, it’s very tough, but those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families,” the president said. “The Democrats gave us that. It’s a horrible thing that we have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. And they don’t wanna do anything about it; they’ll leave it like that. And now you’re breaking up families because of the Democrats. It’s terrible.”
Since his campaign, Trump has taken a hard line stance against immigration. In the process, he has inflamed racial tensions and legitimized xenophobic politics in a country already burdened with a difficult history. The pillars of his platform, like the Muslim ban and the border wall, were composed of nationalist ideas that propelled what were once fringe groups to the forefront of the national discourse.
Last week, his chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, said in an interview with NPR that increased action toward curtailing immigration would have the effect of separating families at the border through deportation, calling it a “tough deterrent.”
“Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?” NPR’s John Burnett asked Kelly.
“I wouldn’t put it quite that way,” Kelly said. “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
Trump’s admonishment of “Democrat” laws that separate children from their families is most likely a response to the media’s reception of Kelly’s remarks. And while it is true that immigration laws dictate whether or not a child is separated from his or her family at the border, it is up to the discretion of the Department of Justice to enforce those laws. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy to enforce those laws.
“The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable. Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border,” Sessions said. “As a result, a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border.”
"We have to break up families," Trump says, blaming Democrats for "bad laws" on immigration. pic.twitter.com/3pdDIRgrR6
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) May 16, 2018