Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected critics’ claims Monday that separating children from illegal immigrants claiming to be their parents amounts to child abuse and worse.
“We’re doing the right thing — we are taking care of these children,” Sessions told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” Monday night. “They are not being abused. The Health and Human Services Department holds them in good conditions. They work hard at it. We spent billions of dollars last year, Health and Human Services did, in taking care of children who have entered the country unlawfully.”
Sessions also pointed out that “the vast majority of those children still tend to be the unaccompanied minors, but we’ve had a big surge of families’ bringing children with them, and some adults bringing children with them.”
Many of the illegal immigrants arrested at the border with the children then ask for asylum. Immigration officials must assess their claims, which can be time-consuming, but federal courts have ruled that the children can be held no longer than 20 days.
“If they enter the country at a port of entry, and there are many of those along the border — they are not violating the law — the mother or the father in that circumstance would not be prosecuted, and the families stay together,” Sessions said.
“But if they got out in the desert, or they cross a fence or a barrier, our officers have to identify them, follow them, apprehend them [because] they are violating the law, and they need to be prosecuted for that,” he said.
Democrats and liberal mainstream media journalists and talking heads spent the weekend and Monday loudly accusing Trump of abusing the children, showing cruelty, and even creating “concentration camps” to imprison them.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for example, said, “President Trump’s family separation policy leaves a dark stain on our nation. Ripping vulnerable little children away from their parents is an utter atrocity that debases America’s values and our legacy as a beacon of hope, opportunity and freedom.”
Similarly, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said the Trump administration’s policy is creating “a moral and humanitarian crisis,” and that “every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged.”
Sessions also countered claims that Trump should simply opt not to separate the families, noting that when former President Barack Obama did so, it encouraged more illegals to cross the border with children.
“We have watched what happened with the Obama policies,” Sessions said. “Over the years we went from 15,000 illegal entries to 75,000. This is a huge loophole in our system that is attracting more and more people, as more and more people understand that under the previous policies if they were in the country unlawfully nothing ever happened.”
Sessions said immigrants seeking asylum can keep their families intact by entering the U.S. through one of the dozens of legal ports of entry instead of crossing the border illegally.
Sessions announced May 7 that immigrants will be arrested if they faced charges related to illegal border crossings. The crackdown on immigration law included immigrants who have children with them.
The Department of Homeland Security explained February 15 that the loopholes stem from a settlement agreement in 1997. The agreement puts strict restriction from immigration officials when it comes to holding a child for more than 20 days. But critics see the administration as being the source of the problem in their aggressive approach.