Sessions: 'We never really intended' to separate families

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' Acting AG Whitaker's wife defends him in lengthy email to journalist Watchdog: Thousands more migrant children separated from parents than previously known MORE said on Thursday that the Trump administration "never really intended" to separate migrant children from their parents when he issued its aggressive crackdown on immigration prosecutions. 

In an interview with CBN News released Thursday, Sessions said he had not anticipated the massive public backlash from the administration's “zero tolerance” immigration policy that he announced in April.

“It hasn’t been good and the American people don’t like the idea that we are separating families,” Sessions told CBN's David Brody. “We never really intended to do that. What we intended to do, was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they have committed.”

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The policy sought to aggressively prosecute adults crossing the U.S.–Mexico border illegally. Between April and May, the practice led to more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents and sent to detention centers across the U.S.

When he announced the policy's implementation, Sessions noted it would likely deter migrants from trying to cross into the country.

"If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said in May. 

A top Trump official at the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Tuesday that the government expected the policy to act as a deterrent. 

Sessions, most recently, defended the policy last week, invoking the Bible to justify the administration’s immigration policies.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

But Sessions told CBN that he didn’t think his biblical position was “extreme."

“I directed it not to say that religion requires these laws on immigration,” Sessions said. “I just simply said to my Christian friends, you know the United States has laws and I believe that Paul was clear in Romans that we should try to follow the laws of government of which we are a part.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE gave into intense bipartisan pressure on Wednesday, signing an executive order to end migrant family separations.

“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” Trump said at the signing “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”