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 top picks for Homeland Security chief are ineligible for job: reports Singer Brandi Carlile drops out of Fortune event over Kirstjen Nielsen's appearance Trump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary 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 ObamaObama: Cummings showed us 'the importance of checks and balances' Poll shows Michelle Obama would lead in New Hampshire if she entered 2020 Democratic race Obamas' first Netflix project nominated for Critics' Choice Documentary Awards MORE, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE and Rosalynn Carter have joined in on the growing criticism of the policy.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores 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.”