Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer

Former immigration attorney Greg Chen sharply criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE on Monday over his family separation policy, which resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant families at the southern border.

Chen, an official at the non-partisan American Immigration Lawyers Association, acknowledged that while former President Obama did separate some children from their parents at the border, he said it did not happen with the same frequency as it did under Trump and that the move marked a new low for the United States. 

“That is a black scar on President Obama’s record in terms of what they did there,” he said, referring to the family separations that took place under Obama.

“But, under this current administration, it’s gotten even worse,” he said. “The use of family separation, the increased numbers [have] really driven this country to the lowest depth possible in terms of our standards with human rights principles and practices.”

Trump's family separation policy faced renewed scrutiny during a congressional hearing last week over treatment and conditions of migrants at the border. 

During the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOhio special election: A good day for Democrats Five takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength MORE (D-N.Y.) confronted former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chief Thomas Homan about his zero recommendation to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE.

Homan had previously urged Nielsen to opt for the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that mandated the prosecution of all adult migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally and led to the separation of parents from their children. 

"So you provided the official recommendation to Secretary Nielsen for the United States to pursue family separation?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.

"I gave Secretary Nielsen numerous recommendations on how to secure the border and save lives," Homan shot back.

The back-and-forth marked one of several contentious exchanges during the hearing. 

Rep. Mark GreenMark GreenSenators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships Overnight Health Care: CDC encourages schools to open for in-person learning, masks optional | President directs moves on drug importation, calls for plan to lower drug prices | FDA asks for federal investigation of Alzheimer's drug approval Bipartisan lawmakers press NIH for info on deleted coronavirus data MORE (R-Tenn.) lashed out at "progressive liberals" for insinuating that Republicans were in favor of maintaining poor conditions at border detention facilities, calling such accusations “wrong and unfair.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee Five big questions about the Jan. 6 select committee MORE (D-Md.) responded by advising members of both sides of the aisle to avoid personal attacks.

"I think we all, on both side of the aisle, I think we need to be careful about how we talk about the motives of our colleagues. I believe that everyone is operating in good faith," he said.

The hearing came before ICE began their sweeping immigration raids in several major cities across the U.S. 

These raids are expected to continue into this week. Democrats and advocates, meanwhile, warn that the arrests could lead to further family separations and overcrowding in detention facilities. 

—Tess Bonn