US first ladies criticise Trump’s controversial child separation policy
Washington, Jun 18 : President Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant parents and their children on the US border has evoked sharp criticism from his own wife, as well as a former first lady, who described the move to warehouse children in detention centres as “cruel” and “immoral.”
President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and guardians and placed into holding facilities between April 19 and May 31 of this year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The public outcry in the wake of images and stories of the children caught in the middle of Trump’s controversial immigration policy has sparked fierce debate in the US.
In a rare statement on a policy issue, Melania Trump weighed in through her spokeswoman on the immigration crisis, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families”.
“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” the communications director of the first lady Stephanie Grisham, said.
“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,” she quoted the 48-year-old Melania, herself an immigrant, who was born in Slovenia, as saying.
Meanwhile, Laura Bush, wife of the former Republican President George W Bush, launched a rare attack on the policy of the current US President.
“This zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” the 71-year-old former first lady wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.
“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.
“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso,” according to her.
“These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history,” she wrote.
The Trump administration policy now charges every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes, as opposed to referring those with children mainly to immigration courts, as previous administrations did.
Because the government is charging the parents in the criminal justice system, children are separated from them, without a clear procedure for their reunification aside from hotlines the parents can call to try to track their children down, CNN reported.
The policy to refer all adults for charges was publicly announced May 7, but the Justice Department announced it would prosecute 100 per cent of the cases referred to it at the beginning of April, it said.
Laura Bush, who as first lady championed a formal platform of childhood education and literacy programmes, blasted the current immigration situation unfolding in the headlines and on television news channels as not representative of the values of the United States.
“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war,” she says.
“We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the colour of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance.
“If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place,” Laura, who has seldom weighed in on politics since her husband left office, wrote in a rare public admonishment of current administration policy.
She also called for “good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.”
President Trump has repeatedly blamed the Democrats for the situation despite his administration instituting the policy change.
“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” he tweeted on Saturday.
“This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!” Trump said.