Home / NEWS / Donald Trump defends ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy amid fury over separated children

Donald Trump defends ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy amid fury over separated children

Donald Trump dug in his heels over a controversial “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has seen thousands of children forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border.

Mr Trump pointed to Europe, which he said had become a “migrant camp,” and said that would not happen to the United States under his leadership.

Speaking at the White House the US president said: “The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. You look at what’s happening in Europe, and in other places, we cannot allow that to happen. Not on my watch.”

Mr Trump spoke amid an uproar among Democrats and Republicans as images of children being held in wire mesh cages, and toddlers crying as they were separated from their mothers, emerged from the border.

The president said criminals were using children like a “Trojan horse” to get into America, that “a county without borders is not a country at all,” and that people coming in were bringing “death and destruction”.

He added: “They are thieves and murderers and so much else.”

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the US-Mexico border on June 12, 2018

Credit:
John Moore/Getty Images

Criticising the more open immigration policies of his European Nato allies Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

He specifically mentioned Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, falsely suggesting “crime in Germany is way up” and immigration was why “the people of Germany are turning against their leadership”.

Mr Trump went on to attack Democrats in Congress, blaming them for the separation of families at the border because they had created “horrible laws” and had been “weak and ineffective”. The “zero-tolerance” policy was introduced by Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump’s attorney general, in April.

It means all adults caught crossing the border illegally are detained and prosecuted, rather than being released while they await proceedings. Their children are removed and held in separate facilities.

Over a six-week period at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents.

Kirstjen Nielsen, Mr Trump’s homeland security secretary, defended the measures.

Commenting at the National Sheriffs’ Association, she said releasing parents with their children would amount to a “get out of jail free card” for illegal immigrants.

She later described suggestions that the children were being held as pawns, and used as a deterrent, as “offensive”.

“The children are not being used as pawns,” she said. “We are trying to protect the children, which is why we want Congress to act.”

Asked why Mr Trump did not pick up the phone to order the policy of “zero tolerance” be immediately halted, she replied: “I think what the president is trying to do is find a long term fix.”

“These parents and children who enter the country illegally are by definition criminals,” she said.

People detained by US Border Patrol agents at the Central Processing Center in McAllen

Credit:
AFP

Asked whether the policy was tantamount to child abuse, she replied: “Unfortunately I am not in any situation to deal with hearsay stories. Of course we do not want any situation where a child is not adequately taken care of.”

She insisted that people wishing to seek asylum should do so at an official border crossing, rather than attempting to enter illegally, and said that people who were turned away from the border because of overcrowding were told to come back another day.

Hundreds of children are being held at a converted former Walmart store in Texas. Another detention centre in Texas has been nicknamed La Perrera – “the dog kennel” in Spanish. Democrat politicians who were allowed to tour “La Perrera” saw one cage with 20 children inside. Children were sleeping on the floor on thin mattresses with foil sheets as blankets.

Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat senator, said: “I witnessed loads of kids massed together in large pens of chain-linked fence separated from their moms and dads. Shameful.”

Michelle Brane, director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, said she found an unaccompanied four-year-old in a detention centre.

She said: “The girl was so traumatised that she wasn’t talking. She was just curled up in a little ball.”

Another young boy was silent in his cage, clutching a photocopy of his mother’s identity card.

Amnesty International said the treatment of children “meets the definitions of torture under both US and international law”.

It said: “This is a spectacularly cruel policy where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centers which are effectively cages.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said they were “not the ones who created the problem”, and insisted they were determined to fix it.

“The president himself has said that he hates these images, and he wants it to be fixed. It’s Congress’s job to make the law. The president would sign legislation that closes these loopholes.

“People should be begging at the door of Congress asking them to fix this.”

Mr Sessions, speaking at the same meeting in New Orleans, said if a border wall was built then “we won’t face these terrible choices”.

Congress is expected to consider two bills this week aimed at resolving immigration issues. Democrats have accused Mr Trump of using the separation of families as a “negotiating tool” to secure more funding for the border wall in any bill that passes.

Laura Bush, the former first lady, joined a chorus of criticism, saying the separation of families was “cruel, immoral and breaks my heart”.

She compared it to the “shameful” internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

Former first lady Rosalyn Carter called the “zero tolerance” policy “disgraceful” and “a shame to our country.”

“When I was first lady, I worked to call attention to the plight of refugees fleeing Cambodia for Thailand, I visited Thailand and witnessed firsthand the trauma of parents and children separated by circumstance beyond their control,” Carter said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

“The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country,” the statement continued.

A senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services said up to 30,000 illegal immigrant children could be held by the end of August, and it was “running out of space”. Several military bases in Texas are being considered as sites for temporary tented shelters.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/18/trump-attacks-germany-migration-policies-criticism-child-detention/

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