Trump denies he's planning to restart family separations at border

President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE said Tuesday he is not looking to restart his administration’s practice of separating migrant families at the southern border amid reports that he was considering reinstating the policy.

Trump, during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Egypt, denied that he was considering putting the policy back in place, but he vouched for its effectiveness as a deterrent to illegal border crossings.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We're not looking to do that, no," he said.

Trump argued that without the ability to separate families who cross into the U.S. illegally, "it brings a lot more people to the border." But he maintained he was not looking to restart the practice.

"Once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic because, 'let's go to Disneyland,'" he said.

The Trump administration instituted a "zero-tolerance" immigration policy last year that directed law enforcement to criminally prosecute those caught crossing the border illegally, which subsequently led to the separation of thousands of migrant families.

Amid intense backlash from lawmakers in both parties over the morality of the policy, Trump signed an executive order last June halting the separations after contending only Congress could address the problem.

Multiple reports published Monday said the president wanted to reinstitute the policy as he attempts to clamp down on illegal border crossings. The reports said that outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Energy Dept denies report that Rick Perry is planning to leave Trump admin MORE opposed the move on legal grounds, citing court rulings and Trump's own executive order.

The clash reportedly contributed to her resignation. Nielsen, whose resignation was announced Sunday night, had publicly defended the policy last year.

Trump on Tuesday sought to dodge responsibility for the separations, insisting that the Obama administration had implemented a similar policy first.

"President Obama had child separation," Trump said. "Take a look. The press knows it, you know it, we all know it. I’m the one that stopped it."

Trump has made similar claims about Obama's policies in the past. Multiple fact-checkers have noted that the Obama administration separated children from their families at the border in limited cases, but that it did not have the same "zero-tolerance" policy instituted by the Trump administration.

--Updated at 1:10 p.m.