The Department of Homeland Security says nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s new "zero-tolerance policy," which President Donald Trump defended Monday.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” he said at the White House.
The president is once again blaming Democrats, both for current laws on the books and for obstructing new laws from being passed. So, what’s the truth?
In 2016, a federal judge updated a 1997 law, the Flores Law, which stated unaccompanied children could be held in immigration detention for only a short period of time, saying it “applies both to minors who are accompanied and unaccompanied by their parents.”
“Because children can’t be held in criminal custody, the parents are being separated from their children, so while not at the outset a policy of family separation, it is effectively a policy of family separation,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute.
The policy is yielding outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"This is something that is squarely within the hands of this administration to ultimately change," said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas.
“This is inhumane. I would like to say it is un-American, but it's happening right now in America,” said Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, a Texas Senate candidate.
In 2014, nearly 70,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the southern border, but most of these children were much older.
Certainly in this country American children are separated from their parents every day if a parent is charged with a crime. What’s different here, say experts, is there’s not a system in place to reunite these children with their parents or to deal with how to best care for them, many younger than 5 years old.
“These children have been forcibly ripped from their parents, so no matter what great treatment they’re getting, they’re undergoing severe trauma,” Pierce said.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are now vowing to intervene, pointing to what they call just the latest example of a broken immigration system.