US President Donald Trump has defended his policy of splitting up families entering the US illegally, defying a growing chorus of condemnation. Speaking at a business convention, Trump said children have to be taken away if their parents are jailed for illegally crossing the US border. The President had earlier sparked outrage for tweeting that undocumented immigrants would “infest” the US. Mexico’s Foreign Minister has called the US policy “cruel and inhuman”. “I don’t want children taken away from parents,” Trump said on Tuesday during a speech at a National Federation of Independent Businesses event in Washington DC, reported BBC. But he added: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally – which should happen – you have to take the children away.”
He also claimed that separating families was “the only solution” to end illegal immigration, even as he noted that he does not support the practice. Trump said he wanted to “end the border crisis” by giving border officials the resources to “detain and remove illegal immigrant families altogether”. US immigration officials say 2,342 children have been separated from 2,206 parents from May 5 to June 9. Trump has blamed “Democrat-supported loopholes” in federal law for the family separations, but critics of the policy say the recent spike is due to the enforcement of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” approach. Sessions has rejected claims that US holding centres for child migrants separated from parents are like Nazi concentration camps.
America’s top law official told Fox News the “zero tolerance” policy was about enforcing border security. Trump is meeting Republican lawmakers later to discuss a bill that proposes to curb the policy. Sessions was asked on Fox News about a tweet by former CIA Director Michael Hayden likening what happened at Auschwitz concentration camp, where millions of Jews and other minorities were killed, to the separation of undocumented immigrant families at the US border. “Well, it’s a real exaggeration, of course,” the Department of Justice chief said in Monday night’s interview. “In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.”
Sessions said: “Fundamentally, we are enforcing the law. Hopefully people will get the message and not break across the border unlawfully.” In a remark that provoked criticism, Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the detention centres were “essentially summer camps” for migrant children. It is not the first historical analogy inspired by the policy – former US First Lady Laura Bush has compared it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that immigrants threatened “to pour into and infest our Country”, triggering further outrage.