Republicans Speak Out About Trump Administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Immigration Policy
The Trump administration’s immigration “zero tolerance” policy that results in the separation of thousands of children from their families stoked outrage over the weekend, and several prominent Republicans sounded off.
Some called for the administration to end the separations while others renewed their calls for broader immigration revisions.
Here’s a look at some of the Republicans who have spoken out.
Former first lady Laura Bush, wife of former GOP President George W. Bush, wrote a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday night comparing the family separations to World War II Japanese-American internment camps, calling the practice “immoral.”
“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,” Bush wrote.
The first lady, through her spokeswoman, said she “hates to see” the separations, though she did not acknowledge the separations are a result of Trump administration policy and called for “both sides of the aisle” to pass immigration reform.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, while defending the administration’s efforts to tighten immigration enforcement in a Facebook post Monday, nonetheless called the separation of families “wrong” and wrote “the choice before the American people does not have to be ‘wicked versus foolish.'”
“This is wrong. Americans do not take children hostage, period,” he wrote.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins called the separations “inconsistent with our American values.”
“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with your children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” Collins said on CBS Sunday. “That’s traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Collins and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar expressing concern and asking several questions about the asylum process and separations.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has started distancing himself from the Trump administration’s use of the Bible as justification for the family separation policy, saying he wants to see the policy addressed and would be speaking with DHS about the issue.
“I have some phone calls — in fact, I have some calls today even — with DHS that will be coming up talking about this, how do we make sure we keep as many families together as possible,” Lankford said during an interview with local TV station KOCO 5 last week.
In a statement on Twitter, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said, “A policy that leads to separating children from their families is wrong.”
Texas Rep. Will Hurd spoke out against the administration’s policy and noted to CNN’s Ana Cabrera on “Newsroom” that it “is clearly something that the administration can change.”
“They don’t need legislation to change it,” Hurd said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour” Friday that “there is plenty of blame to go around,” but acknowledged that Trump could “stop this policy with a phone call.”
“If you don’t like families being separated, you can go tell DHS stop doing it,” Graham said.
Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart issued a statement calling the separations “unconscionable.”
“It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents,” he said. “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.”
Diaz-Balart added that he is attempting to end the separations in an immigration bill on which he is working with colleagues.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts renounced the practice in a statement on Twitter:
“While I firmly support enforcing our immigration laws, I am against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration. My concern, first and foremost, is the protection of the children.”
Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, came out Monday against the separation of families.
“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,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “That’s why I have publicly come out against separating children from their parents at the border.”
Stivers also wrote that he will be communicating with the Trump administration to request a change to the practice.
“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,” he said.
Former Republican officials
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday that the separations amount to an “atrocious policy.”
“It’s inhumane. It’s offensive to the average American,” said Scaramucci, who urged Trump to take action to avoid separations.
Over the weekend, CNN national security analyst Michael Hayden, who was nominated by Bush to lead the CIA, tweeted out a photo of the Birkenau death camp at Auschwitz, writing, “Other governments have separated mothers and children.”
Hayden, who was director of the National Security Agency under Presidents Bush and Bill Clinton, explained on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning that his tweet was a warning of where the US could be headed.
“Let’s run the clock back to 1933, which is really what I was trying to address,” Hayden said. “And in 1933, what did we see in Germany? A cult of personality, a cult of nationalism, a cult of grievance, a press operation that looked like and was the ministry of propaganda and then the punishing of marginalized groups.”
And on Monday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, “Children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”
Other notable officials
Ohio Gov. John Kasich wrote in a fundraising email to supporters Monday that the family separations are “just wrong.”
“Friend, have you seen the news about the Trump administration’s policy that is separating children from their parents at our borders?” the email from the former GOP presidential candidate reads. “America needs a secure border but separating children from their parents is just wrong.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney responded to a tweet by Laura Bush about the policy.
“I agree that we need a more compassionate answer,” wrote Romney, who is now a Utah US Senate candidate.