GOP senator calls on Trump to end 'cruel' family separation policy

GOP senator calls on Trump to end 'cruel' family separation policy
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GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Murkowski says she’ll wait until Ford testifies before making decision on Kavanaugh MORE (Alaska) on Monday rebuked Trump administration officials who have defended separating migrant families at the border by saying they are enforcing laws approved by past administrations.

Murkowski called on President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE to end his administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which has led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents, calling it "cruel" and "tragic."

"While I have said that this is a policy discussion that needs to be had, in my view we should not have a policy designed to separate families, particularly mothers with young children, without a clear process and focus on the needs of the children," she said in a statement.

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"To blame previous administrations for a wrong committed today is not acceptable," she continued. "The Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security should make the call today. If the administration does not fix this and fast, we in Congress must."

Murkowski is the latest in a growing list of bipartisan lawmakers who have asked the White House to stop separating families who illegally cross the southern border.

Her comments come a short time after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFEMA head to reimburse government for use of federal vehicles: report US to prioritize attacks against foreign adversaries under new cyber strategy Paddlers sue Trump over frequent golf visits shutting down the Potomac River MORE and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fielded questions on the family separation issue during a press briefing.

The two women defended the policy by saying the current administration is merely enforcing laws that were already on the books, and put the onus on Congress to change those laws.

“Frankly, this law was actually signed into effect in 2008 under [then-first lady Laura Bush’s] husband’s leadership, not under this administration,” Sanders said.

“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.” 

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump distances himself from Rosenstein by saying Sessions hired him Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Pompeo on Rosenstein bombshell: Maybe you just ought to find something else to do if you can't be on the team MORE announced the policy earlier this year, saying the Department of Justice would criminally prosecute all adults attempting to illegally cross the southern border into the U.S. As a result, families who crossed together would in some cases be separated, he said.

Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the separation policy, despite his administration issuing the directive that led to the practice. On Monday, he doubled down on the policy, saying the U.S. “will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

Numerous Democrats and Republicans have called for an end to the policy, with members of each party introducing legislation to do just that.