Senior Republicans are attacking Trump's policy of separating families at the US border -- here's how they're turning on the president

Chip Somodevilla/Getty; John Moore/Getty; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
  • Thousands of children have been separated from their family members at the US-Mexico border.
  • The practice has been part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
  • It has enraged the public, Democrats, and, now, influential Republicans.
  • Scroll down to see what several Republicans have said.

The Trump administration has been under fire over the past few weeks for its “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has led to children being separated from their families at the US-Mexico border.

Recent photos have shown children weeping in the arms of family members before being separated, climbing over barbed-wire fences alone, and being kept in cages.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs US attorney’s offices to prioritise criminal prosecution of adults suspected of trying to enter the US illegally, causing them to be separated from any children they’re travelling with.

President Donald Trump has argued that the family separations are the result of “following laws, very simply, that were given to us and forced upon us by the Democrats.” Internal documents, however, have shown that it was the Trump administration that implemented the family-separation policy.

Public outrage over the policy has become so heated that even influential Republicans have spoken out against it. Take a look at what some of them have said:


Sen. John McCain of Arizona: The family-separation policy “is an affront to the decency of the American people.”

On Monday evening, McCain tweeted that the White House should immediately end the policy.

“The administration’s current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded,”McCain said. “The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now.”


Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: Trump could “stop this policy with a phone call.”

Graham told CNN’s “At This Hour” on Friday that there was “plenty of blame to go around” but that Trump could “stop this policy with a phone call.”

Appearing to address the president directly, Graham said, “If you don’t like families being separated, you can go tell DHS stop doing it,” referring to the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump previously said, “I hate the children being taken away,” and he has described the separations as “so sad.”


Rep. Will Hurd of Texas: This is “something that as Americans we shouldn’t be doing.”

The GOP congressman visited a temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in his district of Tornillo, Texas, and described the policy of separation as “actually unacceptable.”

Hurd told CNN on Saturday: “To me, it makes it very clear that in the home of the free and the land of the brave, we should not be using kids as a deterrent policy. This is something I think is actually unacceptable and something that as Americans we shouldn’t be doing.

“This isn’t really a Republican or Democratic issue – this is an issue about how should you treat children.”

In a separate interview that day, Hurd also said it was “nuts” that the Trump administration had yet to adequately explain how it was keeping track of undocumented parents and how to reunite them.

He added that the administration’s keeping teenage boys in temporary shelters at the border was “an indication that the policy is flawed.”

Hurd also called for “more focus on addressing the root causes in Central America” and for “alternatives to detention.”


Former first lady Laura Bush: The policy is “cruel” and “immoral.”

Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesFormer President George W. Bush and Laura Bush in Dallas in 2011.

In an op-ed article published on Sunday, the former first lady called the policy “cruel,” “immoral,” and heartbreaking.

The wife of former President George W. Bush wrote 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.

“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.”


Mitt Romney: “We need a more compassionate answer.”

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, supported Laura Bush’s statement on the separations, tweeting, “I agree that we need a more compassionate answer.”


Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: Time to end the “cruel, tragic separations of families,” and do not blame other administrations for this.

Murkowski condemned the separations and called on Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to change the policy.

“To blame previous administrations for a wrong committed today is not acceptable,” Murkowski said in a statement.

The Trump administration has blamed the separations on two “loopholes” created by two laws passed during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Neither of those bills required such policies.


Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: This is “inconsistent with our American values.”

Collins said that she supported Trump’s efforts to increase border security but that the separation of families was “inconsistent with our American values,” unless there was evidence to show that the parents were abusing children.

“We know from years of experience that we need to fix our immigration laws and that using children is not the answer,” she told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

She added: “We already know two things. First, from the experience of previous administrations, it does not act as a deterrent to use children in this fashion. And second, and much more important, it is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents unless there’s evidence of abuse or another very good reason.”

Her response comes around the 0:58 mark in the video above.


Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona: We want details on what guards are doing to families at the border.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Also on Sunday, Collins and Flake sent a joint letter to Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking for details including the number of children who had been separated from their families, the Department of Homeland Security policy or legal theory that justifies the separations, and the training received by border guards who handle the family separations.

“It is critical that Congress fully understands how our nation’s laws are being implemented on the ground, especially when the well-being of young children is at stake,” the senators wrote.

Homeland Security figures showed that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 to May 31.


Joe Straus of Texas: There is no federal law requiring family separations, and Sessions’ new zero-tolerance policy is directly to blame for what’s happening now.

Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, directly cited Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy as the cause of the family separations.

Straus also said that forcible separation can cause delayed development and mental illness.


Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois: Reverse this policy — this is “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Roskam, a Republican representative for Illinois’s 6th Congressional District, called on administration officials to reverse the policy altogether, calling recent events “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

He said in a statement last week:

“The events unfolding at our nation’s borders are heartbreaking. Being forcibly separated from a child is a parent’s worst nightmare and I cannot fathom the pain these families are enduring. Every day these children spend apart from their parents confused, scared and alone inflicts additional and unnecessary trauma.

“Whatever circumstances, whatever violence these families faced in their home countries has driven them to these lengths …

“While I believe we have a responsibility to secure our borders, I also believe that how we treat strangers reflects the moral values this country was founded on. Dragging children away from their parents ought not be a part of the solution.

“I stand with residents of the Sixth District and urge the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to reverse the zero-tolerance policy that removes children from their parents at the border.”


Jeb Bush: This is a “heartless policy” that Trump should end.

Getty Images/Bryan BedderJeb Bush in July 2017.

The former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate described the policy as “heartless” on Monday.

He also called on Congress to pass legislation to help asylum seekers and Dreamers, undocumented young immigrants who were brought to the US as children and were granted protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.


Gov. John Kasich of Ohio: “Just wrong.”

Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, slammed the policy as “just wrong” and called on its supporters to imagine the experiences of the children separated from their families.

He told MSNBC: “Think about the fact that in our country, children – young children – are being separated from their mothers and fathers. Could you imagine the terrifying effect on these kids?”

CNN reported that in a fundraising email on Monday, Kasich wrote: “Friend, have you seen the news about the Trump administration’s policy that is separating children from their parents at our borders? America needs a secure border but separating children from their parents is just wrong.”


Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts: The policy is “cruel and inhumane,” and we’re no longer sending our National Guard to help at the US-Mexico border.

Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

The Republican governor on Monday slammed the family-separation policy and reversed a decision made two weeks ago to deploy the Massachusetts National Guard to the US-Mexico border to help immigration agents.

According to The Boston Globe, he said: “It’s cruel and inhumane, and I told the National Guard to hold steady and to not go down to the border – period. So we won’t be supporting that initiative unless they change the policy.”


Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio: I’m asking the White House to stop this policy and will “support other means” if it doesn’t.

Stivers wrote in a Facebook post on Monday that he was calling on the Trump administration to stop the separations and that if it did not change the policy, he would “support other means” to do so.

“As a father, I know firsthand that there is nothing more important than family, and I understand why kids need to be with their parents,” Stivers said. “That’s why I have publicly come out against separating children from their parents at the border.

“I am writing a letter to understand the current policies and to ask the Administration to stop needlessly separating children from their parents. If the policy is not changed, I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents.”


Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida: Separating children from their parents is “totally unacceptable” and “unconscionable.”

Pete Marovich/Getty

Diaz-Balart, a representative for Florida’s 25th Congressional District, called for “any and every other option” to prevent the family separations.

He said in a statement on Monday:

“It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents. Any and every other option should be implemented in order to not separate minors from their parents, which I believe is unconscionable.

“We cannot allow for this to continue happening, and it must stop. I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the provision included in this week’s immigration bill puts an end to this cruel practice.”

Diaz-Balart has also been trying to pass legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.


Anthony Scaramucci: Trump is “going to get hurt by this issue.”

The former White House communications director warned that Trump was “going to get hurt by this issue if it stays out there,” and he called for a “humane approach” to migrants arriving at the border.

“There’s culpability on all sides here,” Scaramucci told Fox News on Saturday. “My recommendation is you should be immediately fixing this problem. I think that this is a fuse that’s been lit, and it’s now burning into a big, big gunpowder pool, if you will. So you don’t want all that dynamite going off.

“The president is going to get hurt by this issue if it stays out there very very long. Unfortunately, because he’s the commander in chief, he’s at the top of the food chain of the government. Even if it’s the Democrats’ fault, he’s going to get tarred with it.

“My recommendation: Let’s fix this immediately, because what we have to stand for in our society is our American values. When they’re saying from the White House, ‘Oh, well, don’t break the law; if you don’t break the law, then we won’t have to separate you,’ that’s sort of incongruent with American values.

“I recognise that people should not break the law, but there’s a lot of desperate people that want to enter this country, and we have to take a humane approach to those people.”

Watch Scaramucci’s full response around the 5:17 mark in the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91x9bWskim4?start=317


Evangelical leader Franklin Graham: The policy is “disgraceful,” and it’s “terrible to see families ripped apart.”

Ralph Freso / Stringer / Getty ImagesGraham with Trump at a campaign rally.

Franklin Graham, the Evangelical leader and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse who prayed at Trump’s inauguration, also disavowed the policy.

Last week, Graham described the policy as “disgraceful” and added that it was “terrible to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit.”

He blamed “politicians for the last 20, 30 years” rather than the Trump administration.

Evangelical Christians are an important support base for the president – about four out of five voted for Trump in the 2016 election.


US Conference of Catholic Bishops leader Daniel DiNardo: “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

Fox 26 Houston/YouTube

Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, also said last week: “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

White Catholics supported Trump over the 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by a 23-point margin, 60% to 37%, in the election.

The White House has claimed that it is “very biblical to enforce the law.”


The Mormon Church: “We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families.”

The Mormon Church on Monday described the “aggressive and insensitive treatment” of the families being separated at the border in calling for “action to correct this situation.”

It said in a statement:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long expressed its position that immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together.

“The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring in the US-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families.

“While we recognise the right of all nations to enforce their laws and secure their borders, we encourage our national leaders to take action to correct this situation and seek for rational, compassionate solutions.”

Mormon voters favoured Trump over Clinton by a 36-point margin in the 2016 general election. The Mormon Church’s condemnation adds to the list of Trump-supporting religious groups that have spoken out against the family-separation policy.


Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas: “I am against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration.”

Roberts said that while he advocated following US immigration law, familial separations were not the answer.

“While I firmly support enforcing our immigration laws, I am against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration,” he tweeted on Monday. “My concern, first and foremost, is the protection of the children.”


Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma: We must “keep families together … for as long as we can possibly keep them together.”

Lankford told a constituent on a phone call last week: “What I’m making a request to the White House on is keep families together as much as we can possibly keep families together, for as long as we can possibly keep them together.

“But at some point, if an adult starts going through prosecution and starts going through the hearing, there is going to be a little bit of a separation.”

Listen to his comments below:

He also said he was “surprised” to see the White House cite the Bible as a reason to separate families, telling the Oklahoma City news outlet KOCO-TV last week: “God’s design is for a family unit. That is the basis of our culture and of our society.

“I think you leave families together as much as you can possibly leave families together, until you have to separate.”


First lady Melania Trump: The US needs to be “a country that governs with heart.”

The first lady gave a rare political statement on Sunday in the wake of increasing reports of family separations at the US-Mexico border.

While she did not specifically criticise the Trump administration, she said through her spokeswoman that she believes the US needs to be “a country that governs with heart.”

Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, told CNN: “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 believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

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