The US will not become a “camp” for migrants, President Donald Trump said as he defended his controversial immigration policy of separating children from their parents who illegally enter the US that has triggered widespread outrage.
Trump also claimed that criminals are using children to enter the country.
“The US will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting for his space council on Monday.
“You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places, we can’t allow that to happen to the United States. Not on my watch,” he said.
Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in the six week following the administration’s announcement of a “zero-tolerance policy” against illegal border crossings.
The separations have triggered a nationwide outcry from Republicans and Democrats who say it is inhumane.
Trump earlier tweeted that he does not want America to have the same experience as that of Europe.
“We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!” he said.
“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” Trump tweeted.
Trump blamed Democrats for the problem.
“I say it’s very strongly the Democrats fault.” he said.
He said Democrats should come to the table to come to an agreement on immigration legislation.
“If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly,” Trump said. “Good for the children, good for the country, good for the world.”
He said the US has the worst immigration laws in the world.
Trump said the world is watching US economic growth, and a legislative change would be “maybe something for the world to watch” as well.
“But a county without borders is not a country at all. People coming into the country are bringing death and destruction,” he alleged.
“They are thieves and murderers and so much else,” he said.
“Why don’t the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?” he tweeted earlier.
“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the US,” Trump said.
The opposition Democratic party leadership and rights activists have intensified their attack on Trump over the family separation issue.
“In recent weeks and days, Americans have been shocked by heartbreaking images of screaming children being taken away from their parents by US immigration officers along the border. In just six weeks nearly 2,000 children, many of them around 5 years of age, have been sent to mass holding centres or foster care,” Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi described Trump as the “Family-Separator in Chief.” Trump is simply lying when he blames family separation on Democrats, she said.
“Trump’s barbaric family separation policy will be a stain on our history. It’s up to Trump and Sessions to stop ripping children from the arms of their parents. It is cruel and un-American,” Pelosi said.
The South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA) called on the current administration to end their “zero tolerance” policy that is resulting in hundreds of families being ripped apart.
“A policy that emphasizes the separation of children from parents as this one does is inhumane and inconsistent with American values,” said SABA President Rishi Bagga.
“As a country that places emphasis on the family as the building block of society, tearing families apart goes against everything for which we stand,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now refers all unlawful border crossers to the US Department of Justice for prosecution, providing the basis for separating children from their parents.
The children are then classified as “unaccompanied alien minors” and remanded to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
The ORR and public defenders in border states are finding themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of cases that are now coming before them. PTI