(WPRI) — Two congressmen from New England were among several lawmakers to travel to Texas this weekend, protesting the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” that separates migrant children from their parents.
“I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault,” President Donald Trump said Monday morning, about why his administration is enforcing the separation of parents who entered the United States illegally from their children.
But two Democratic congressmen, Rep. David Cicilline and Rep. Joe Kennedy III, say it’s solely the president’s doing.
The two representatives both went to a detention facility in Texas this past weekend to get a firsthand look at the conditions the children were being held in, and to protest the practice.
“The ‘zero-tolerance policy’ makes zero sense,” Cicilline said. “We saw the fear in the eyes of these children who are wondering when they will see their parents ever again. It’s a disgrace, it is shameful, and it’s un-American.”
Kennedy said one of the South Texas facilities that Kennedy tried to examine he was denied entry to.
Around 2,000 children were separated from their parents in a six-week period between April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy in April, directing homeland security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the United States for prosecution.
“I think it is without question that the United States government is in the business of taking children from their families,” Kennedy said. “That policy itself is unconscionable. It is wrong. The President of the United States has the ability to stop that immediately.”
In a posting on Twitter, President Trump rebutted that people have been “devastated by crime coming from illegal immigration” and said it is “the Democrats fault (sic) for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime (sic).”
It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2018
“The major issue that is driving this debate can be solved with a phone call by the President of the United States,” Kennedy said. “Those aren’t my words. That is Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham. This could end immediately if the President chose to do it.”
The new policy enacted under the Trump administration is modeled after a program started by the George W. Bush administration. The Bush program referred all illegal immigrants for prosecution, but made exceptions for adults traveling with children. The Obama administration used the same model, but chose to detain families together in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We’ve had a shelter system for years. What’s different now is that this administration is choosing to separate children from their parents,” Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, told CBS News.
Trump is expected to meet with House Republicans on immigration legislation on Tuesday.