President Trump on Tuesday said he's not looking to reinstate the controversial family separation policy for immigrants seeking asylum and those entering the country illegally, but felt it was a good deterrent when the practice was in place, according to The Associate Press.
“I’m the one that stopped it,” Trump told reporters during a sit-down in the Oval Office with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi when asked about reinstating the policy. He insisted that it was his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who first separated children from their families at the border, the AP reports. But “once you don’t have it (the family separation policy),” he added, “that’s why you see many more people coming.”
"We're not looking to do that," Trump said, according to NBC News, in an attempt to assure reporters that his administration wasn't going to reinstate its zero-tolerance policy of last year.
In June 2018, the president signed an executive order ending parental separations for those held in Border Patrol detention centers upon entering the country illegally.
"We're going to keep families together but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for and that we don't want," Trump said at the time.
NBC News reported Monday that Trump was mulling whether to reinstate the family separation policy.
The news outlet cited three unnamed sources within the administration who said the president had sought to restart the policy since at least January, in response to the spike in illegal immigration.
Last Friday, Trump gave remarks at the border city of Calexico, California, in which he said the United States had problems accepting more immigrants because the nation is “full.”
“We're full, our system's full, our country's full — can't come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can't handle any more, our country is full. Can't come in, I'm sorry. It's very simple,” Trump said.
In 2018, the Trump administration garnered outrage from liberals and conservatives alike for adhering to a family separation policy for immigrants seeking asylum and those who entered the country illegally.
The policy had existed in both the Obama and Bush administrations, with Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson telling both NPR and Fox News that under the Obama administration some children were detained alone. "We had then 34,000 beds for family detention, [but] only 95 of 34,000 [were] equipped to deal with families."
In June 2018, McClatchy's DC Bureau reported that the Obama administration was known to separate children and parents at the border and housed unaccompanied children in tent communities.
Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar of McClatchy also reported at the time that while Trump created the "zero tolerance policy" on family separation, it was Obama who "helped create the road map of enforcement that Trump has been following — and building on."
Nevertheless, the rate of family separation is greater under the Trump administration than under Bush and Obama, according to former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
The policy garnered outrage from many religious leaders and faith groups, including Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, the latter being a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board.
”As evangelical leaders representing tens of thousands of local churches, campus communities, and ministries we are concerned that the new 'zero tolerance' policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, recently announced by Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions and being implemented by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, has had the effect of separating vulnerable children from their parents,” read an open letter to Trump that both Moore and Rodriguez signed.
“As head of the Executive Branch of the federal government, we are writing to ask you to resolve this situation of families being separated that you have rightly described as 'horrible.’”