Trump repeatedly blames Democrats for family separation policy he could change right now

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump repeatedly blamed Democrats for splitting up migrant families, even though enforcing the policy was a choice by his administration.
  • Both Republicans and Democrats have urged Trump to end the practice.
  • The president appears to be using family separation as both leverage and a deterrent to try to accomplish immigration policy goals.
Trump: The US will not be a migrant camp

President Donald Trump on Monday once again wrongly blamed Democrats for his administration's migrant family separation policy — one that he could end whenever he chooses.

Faced with mounting condemnation of the practice, the president dodged responsibility for splitting up families who have crossed U.S. borders illegally. Trump urged Congress to pass a broader immigration bill that meets his strict demands for border security.

"And I say it's — very strongly — the Democrats' fault. They're really obstructionist and they are obstructing. The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility — won't be," Trump said at an event about promoting American activity in space.

Donald Trump: the US will not be a migrant camp or refugee holding facility

The president added: "If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly. Good for the children, good for the country, good for the world. It could take place quickly. We could have an immigration bill, we could have child separation. We're stuck with these horrible laws. They're horrible laws. What's happening is so sad. It's so sad. And it can be taken care of quickly and beautifully and we'll have safety."

President Donald Trump
Al Drago | Reuters

Trump made the remarks when, in fact, it is his own administration's policy to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border. The president himself could immediately put an end to the practice without legislative action.

Family separation came about as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. The White House decided to prosecute everyone who illegally goes into the United States, leading to children getting separated from parents. The policy marks a departure from the previous two administrations.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Trump in a statement, saying, "As everyone who has looked at this agrees, this was done by the president, not Democrats."

"He can fix it tomorrow if he wants to, and if he doesn't want to, he should own up to the fact that he's doing it," the New York Democrat said.

Speaking on Monday, Trump's 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton called it an "outright lie" to blame Democrats for the policy. The former first lady said she warned that Trump's proposals could lead to such practices during the campaign.

She also addressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions using a bible verse to defend the practice.

"Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruelty are ignoring a central tenant of Christianity," she said. "These policies are not rooted in religion. What is being done using the name of religion is contrary to everything I was ever taught."

Even as bipartisan critics call the practice inhumane and urge the president to end it, his administration has given no sign that it will stop splitting up families. Trump appears to be using it as leverage to pass priorities such as his proposed border wall and limits on legal immigration.

The policy could cause political damage to the president and Republicans only months ahead of critical midterm elections.

Both Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the family separation practice on Monday. Nielsen raised eyebrows on Sunday by wrongly denying that it was a Trump administration policy.