Bush DHS chief criticizes 'fearmongering' over migrants

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Wednesday criticized what he called "fearmongering" over migrants and refugees.

"In certain countries around the world certain elected officials have made the notion of forced migrants, refugees, immigration a political issue," said Ridge, who served under former President George W. Bush, at a discussion on the global migration crisis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"They've tried to generate the fear that somehow these individuals - by the way, probably the majority are women and children, the most vulnerable in these countries - somehow will be terrorists or criminals and disrupt the way of life once they come across the border," Ridge continued. "It's mythical.

"It's the worst kind of fearmongering done, in my judgment," he added. "And it's unworthy of the United States of America, in my judgment."

Ridge, who was also a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, has criticized the Trump administration before. In November, he dismissed President Trump's push for a border wall with Mexico, saying the U.S. didn't need it.

His comments come amid a heated debate over the administration's new efforts to crack down on illegal border crossings. Officials plan to prosecute those crossing the border for the first time, hoping it will deter migrants.

That policy has also sparked debate over the plight of migrant children, who are separated from parents who face criminal charges.

Ridge recently co-chaired a task force at CSIS that drew up a report on how the world and the U.S. in particular should address the growing refugee crisis.