President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Family separation policy starts dividing Republicans

Deep concerns arise over the child separation policy in the U.S.

The emotional policy of separating children from their parents is also starting to divide Republicans and their allies as Democrats turn up the pressure.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the policy “cruel” and “immoral” while GOP Sen. Susan Collins expressed concern about it and a former adviser to President Donald Trump said he thought the issue was going to hurt the president at some point. Religious groups, including some conservative ones, are protesting.

Mrs. Bush made some of the strongest comments yet about the policy from the Republican side of the aisle.

“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” she wrote in a guest column for the Washington Post Sunday. She compared it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which she called “one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

RELATED: Trump wants military to secure border with Mexico

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she favours tighter border security, but expressed deep concerns about the child separation policy.

“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said. “That’s traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”

Former Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci said in a weekend interview that the child separation interview could be dangerous for Trump. He said the president “should be immediately fixing this problem.”

“This is a fuse that has been lit,” he said. “The president is going to get hurt by this issue if it stays out there very, very long.”

The signs of splintering of GOP support come after longtime Trump ally, the Rev. Franklin Graham, called the policy “disgraceful.” Several religious groups, including some conservative ones, have pushed to stop the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents.

RELATED: Trump suggests paying for US border wall with Pentagon funds

This pressure is coming as White House officials have tried to distance themselves from the policy. Trump blames Democrats falsely for the situation. The administration put the policy in place and could easily end it after it has led to a spike in cases of split and distraught families.

“Nobody likes” breaking up families and “seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms,” said presidential counsellor Kellyanne Conway.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss pending immigration legislation amid an election-season debate over one of his favourite issues. The House is expected to vote this week on a bill pushed by conservatives that may not have enough support to pass, and a compromise measure with key proposals supported by the president. The White House has said Trump would sign either of those.

Conway rejected the idea that Trump was using the kids as leverage to force Democrats to negotiate on immigration and his long-promised border wall, even after Trump tweeted Saturday: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!”

Asked whether the president was willing to end the policy, she said: “The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board.”

To Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the administration is “using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build our wall. And it’s an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress.”

Schiff said the practice was “deeply unethical” and that Republicans’ refusal to criticize Trump represented a “sad degeneration” of the GOP, which he said had become “the party of lies.”

“There are other ways to negotiate between Republicans and Democrats. Using children, young children, as political foils is abhorrent,” said Sen Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Even first lady Melania Trump, who has tended to stay out of contentious policy debates, waded into the emotional issue. Her spokeswoman says that Mrs. Trump believes “we need to be a country that follows all laws,” but also one “that governs with heart.”

“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

The House proposals face broad opposition from Democrats, and even if a bill does pass, the closely divided Senate seems unlikely to go along.

Trump’s former chief strategist said Republicans would face steep consequences for pushing the compromise bill because it provides a path to citizenship for young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Steve Bannon argued that effort risked alienating Trump’s political base and contributing to election losses in November, when Republicans hope to preserve their congressional majorities.

Conway and Schiff appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Collins was on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Lujan and Bannon spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Scaramucci was on Fox 11 in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

HarbourCats team up with Bastion Books to bring back Harvey’s Reading Club

HarbourCats and Bastions Books offer students free game tickets in an effort to promote child literacy

Central Saanich newspaper carrier gets letter of thanks, chocolates from her community for note

Ava Verscheure started her first very job by introducing herself to residents along newspaper route

Power outage leaves more than 1,500 Sidney residents in the dark Sunday

BC Hydro customers without power since 7:57 a.m. on Feb. 16

Habitat for Humanity seeks applicants for 11 new homes on the Saanich Peninsula

Successful applicants will help build their new homes and receive an affordable mortgage

Registration opens March 1 for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Wet’suwet’en return to northern B.C. forest road pipeline workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Over a dozen birds found mysteriously dead on rural B.C road

Ministry of Agriculture notified of the strange occurrence on No. 4 Road in Abbotsford

B.C. men arrested after theft of heavy equipment leads to highway blockade

One man surrendered to police while the other was taken into custody the next morning, RCMP say

Forestry workers vote for new agreement, ending 8-month strike on Vancouver Island

Wage increases, higher premiums and contract language part of new agreement

PHOTOS: Trans Mountain hosts mock oil spill response practice in Kamloops

Practice comes after an excavator accidentally struck the pipeline near Jacko Lake in mid-February

Most Read