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Obama Homeland Security secretary: Trump immigration policy 'unsustainable'

Obama Homeland Security secretary: Trump immigration policy 'unsustainable'
© Greg Nash

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson criticized the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy on Saturday, calling the practice "unsustainable."

Johnson told CNN that the Trump administration was attempting to "send a shock to the system" by separating thousands of migrant families in order to drive down the number of overall immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally — a practice, he said, that cannot withstand the long term.

"This is obviously a deliberate effort, short term, to try to send a shock to the system and drive the numbers down," Johnson told CNN. "The system cannot sustain that longer term."

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"That may or may not work," he added, "but history shows us that, longer term, the trends are going to revert back to where they were, 40,000-50,000 a month as long as we continue to ignore the underlying push factors in Central America."

Johnson went on to criticize the policy's ethics, which have come under fire after the Department of Homeland Security reported that thousands of children have been separated from their parents and detained at border facilities.

"This is not who we are as Americans. This is just simply wrong," he said. "The images I saw firsthand ... of women embracing their children is one that is still frozen in my mind. I could not separate a child from her mother in that way."

The zero tolerance policy, introduced by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE in April, aggressively prosecutes migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally upon apprehension. The policy effectively separates migrant adults and children, as the two are prosecuted separately in court.

The policy has been widely denounced by lawmakers, celebrities and evangelists who have called it cruel and immoral.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE has blamed the policy on Democrats, who, he argues, are refusing to compromise with Republicans on an immigration bill that would include his plans for a border wall and increased border security.

"Democrats forced that law on the nation,” he said Friday.

Senate Democrats have introduced legislation banning separating families at the border.