Mulvaney defends family separations at border


White House budget director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday defended the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.

Mulvaney said Wednesday that the Trump administration was merely enforcing laws that apply to U.S. citizens and rejected claims that migrant children have been kept in cages and inhumane conditions.

“If you cross between points of entry, which is illegal, our ‘zero tolerance’ is now to charge you with that crime,” Mulvaney said during an interview at Future of Fintech, a New York financial technology conference.

“That is the policy change. After that, the law kicks in and the law is that if you get detained and charged with a crime, you don’t get to keep your kids around,” Mulvaney said.

The Justice Department in April announced a zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossings, which requires families traveling together to be separated so adults can be detained and prosecuted.

Thousands of children have been separated from their families in the weeks since Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the policy, sparking an uproar among activists, Democrats and many Republicans — including those close to President Trump.

Trump said earlier Wednesday he would sign an executive order to end family separations, and the House is planning to vote Thursday on legislation meant to keep detained migrant families together.

Mulvaney declined to say whether the immigration policy was humane and insisted that the process of separating parents charged with crimes from their children is normal part of the U.S. justice system.

“If you get arrested tonight for shooting me, we are going to detain you, we are going to put you in jail and we are going to separate you from your child. That is the law. That is what we do. Your kids don’t go with you to prison,” Mulvaney said.

“Whether or not it is humane, it is what we do to American citizens.”

Mulvaney also pushed back on media reports showing traumatized migrant children in chain-link holding cells, which he said distracted from an important debate about immigration policy.

“There is, what do they call it, cyclone fencing, but it’s air conditioned, they have services,” Mulvaney said. “When you come in and say ‘you’re keeping people, human beings in cages,’’ That’s not factually accurate and it doesn’t help a debate on the underlying issues.”

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Mick Mulvaney

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