“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this month at an event in Arizona announcing the move. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, defended separating families in an NPR interview this month as “a tough deterrent” against illegal immigration after an uptick in border crossings by Central American nationals.
“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever,” Kelly said.
The changes prompted widespread coverage of the policy and an outcry from human rights groups, which noted many families crossing the border were seeking asylum after fleeing violence in their home countries.
But even as his own top official defended the change, Trump tweeted Saturday that the administration’s policy was actually due to a “horrible law” enacted by Democrats and urged Americans to build “pressure” to fix it. He had previously blamed family separations on “the bad laws that the Democrats gave us.”
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
In a follow-up statement on Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley referred more generally to “open border policies” that were “encouraging mass illegal immigration” rather than a specific law that caused children to be separated.