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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades 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.


"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 NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official 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.