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 John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 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-CortezPoll: Voters split on whether it's acceptable for Israel to deny Omar, Tlaib visas NJ college censures trustee over posts targeting 'the squad' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 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 NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role 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 GreenTackling China in modern Cold War New policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Senate leaves for five-week August recess 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 CummingsHouse committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations Can the Democrats unseat Trump? Democrats slam alleged politicization of Trump State Department after IG report 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