NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Trump administration is standing by the controversial immigration policy of separating families at the U.S. border.
“The U.S. will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” President Trump said during a press conference in Washington Monday.
The White House is defending current “zero tolerance” policies – which take minors away from the adults they crossed the border with – despite growing criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
“This is unconscionable, it is immoral,” Sen. Bob Menendez said.
Since April, about 2,000 minors have reportedly been separated from the adults they crossed the border with.
“We will not apologize,” Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said, while explaining that border agents have only two choices in such cases.
“We must either release both the parents and children — this is the historic get out of jail free practice… or the adult and minor are separated as a result of prosecuting the adult.”
Democrats are pushing back against the president’s claim that this controversy started because of “their” immigration law.
“No one should get into this country who doesn’t meet legal needs, but you don’t have to separate parents from children while that adjudication is occurring,” Sen. Chuck Schumer argued. “He can just change it by his own administrative action tomorrow.”
Trump also claims the separated children being used like pawns by illegal immigrants and criminals looking to avoid prosecution; an allegation supported by some border agents.
“We had a MS-13 — a full blown MS-13 accompanied by a one-year-old child — he thought he would get released into the community. That was not the case,” Customs & Border Protection agent Manuel Padilla said on CBS This Morning.
The White House says the number of people illegally crossing with children went from 14,000 to 75,000 in the last five years.
President Trump will reportedly meet with Republicans on Tuesday to talk about potential immigration bills.