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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 ObamaJill Biden, Kate Middleton to meet this week Jill Biden to focus on military families on foreign trip Book claims Trump believed Democrats would replace Biden with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama in 2020 election MORE, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' MORE and Rosalynn Carter have joined in on the growing criticism of the policy.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpJill Biden, Kate Middleton visit school together in first meeting Jill Biden wears 'LOVE' jacket 'to bring unity' to meeting with Boris Johnson White House gets back to pre-COVID-19 normality 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.”