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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 NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing 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 ObamaMichelle Obama describes Barack's favorite movies: 'Everybody is sad, then they die' Michelle Obama on coping with low-grade depression: 'Nobody rides life on a high' Sarah Silverman urges Congress to pass voting bill: 'What kind of politician wants to keep people from voting?' MORE, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE and Rosalynn Carter have joined in on the growing criticism of the policy.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpHere's why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not Jill Biden a key figure in push to pitch White House plans Petition calls for Jill Biden to undo Trump-era changes to White House Rose Garden 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.”