White House pushes back on Laura Bush criticism of family separation

The Trump administration on Monday pushed back against criticism from former first lady Laura Bush of its “zero tolerance” policy that has led to the separation of migrant families.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump's acting ICE chief to leave post Trump's fight with city leaders escalates Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to 'swatting' Black church, Cabinet official, journalists MORE blamed past administrations, including George W. Bush’s, for signing off on laws that led to the current crisis. 

“Frankly, this law was actually signed into effect in 2008 under [Laura Bush’s] husband’s leadership, not under this administration,” Sanders said during Monday’s press briefing.

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“We’re not the ones responsible for creating this problem. We’ve inherited it,” she added. “But we’re actually the first administration stepping up and trying to fix it.” 

Bush penned an op-ed for The Washington Post on Sunday in which she lambasted the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents. The former first lady seldom comments on the current administration.

“I live in a border state,” Bush wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Former first ladies Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObamas discuss pandemic, voting, anxiety and community in new podcast The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 The Obamas' production company fetches 7 Emmy nominations MORE, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump vows challenge to Nevada bill expanding mail-in voting Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Juan Williams: The Trump Show grows tired MORE and Rosalynn Carter have joined in on the growing criticism of the policy.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate GOP, House Democrats begin battle over trillion bill Melania Trump announces plans to renovate White House Rose Garden Trump tweets photo of himself wearing a mask MORE also weighed in on Sunday, saying she "hates to see children separated from their families," but echoed the administration's calls for a legislative fix.

Nielsen took questions during Monday’s briefing, where she attempted to argue that the current administration is merely enforcing the laws. 

Asked for a response to comments from Bush and the current first lady, Nielsen said she “shares their concerns.” However, she repeatedly put the onus on Congress to address the issue. 

“Calling attention to this matter is important. This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action,” she said. 

“So I would thank them both for their comments, I would thank them both for their concerns. I share their concerns,” she continued. “But Congress is the one that needs to fix this.”