By Alisha Haridasani
President Trump doubled down on his administration's "zero tolerance" stance on immigration Monday and blamed the Democrats for the “horrible laws” that he says are responsible for separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp,” he said in a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council.
“What’s happening is so sad,” he said. “If the Democrats would sit down, instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly.”
Almost 2,000 children have been separated from their families since Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented the "zero tolerance" policy in April, penalizing immigrants, whatever their age, for even attempting to enter the country illegally.
In recent days news reports have been filled with images of children crying after being separated from their parents or lying under foil blankets in detention centers in Texas. The photos have sparked outrage among voters and lawmakers.
“The pictures are bad. The optics are bad. The stories are bad,” said Republican strategist Rick Wilson. "They’re unspinably bad right now."
“The facts in these cases cease to matter after a certain point, and the images and the emotional power of them matter much more.”
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, joined the chorus of Republicans and Democrats that have called on the president to put an end to the practice.
“Family separation is wicked,” Sasse said in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.
While acknowledging the need to tighten the porous southern border, Sasse noted that “there are ways to address this that are less bad than the policy of family separation.”
Over the weekend, former First Lady Laura Bush weighed in on the issue, condemning the separations as "immoral" and saying it "breaks my heart."
First Lady Melania Trump also responded through a spokesperson, who said she "hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform."
In an interview with Cheddar, Wilson said that Trump's attempt to blame Democrats for his administration's "zero tolerance" policy is a sign that the president feels pressure to resolve the issue.
“Trump is nervous. Trump is not happy about this. Trump doesn’t love this situation,” he said, noting that many GOP lawmakers in Congress want to see the president address the issue through executive order.
“He could send out what they call command guidance to DHS right now and simply say ‘do not separate kids from their families.’”
For her part, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, defended the family separation policy in a speech to the National Sheriffs Association. “We have to do our job," she said. "We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job.”
The president will reportedly bring up the issue when he meets with House Republicans on Tuesday.
For the full interview, click here.