President Trump confirmed Saturday that he is considering a new family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border because he believes the administration’s earlier move to separate migrant children from parents was an effective deterrent to illegal crossings.
Asked to respond to a report in The Washington Post that the administration is weighing a new family-separation policy, Trump told reporters, “We’re looking at everything that you could look at when it comes to illegal immigration.”
Trump said the soaring number of illegal border crossings is “a terrible situation” and argued that family separations likely would help scare away some undocumented migrants from trying to enter the United States.
“If they feel there will be separation, they won’t come,” Trump said.
Trump made his comments to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One for his trip to Kentucky, where he was scheduled to headline an evening campaign rally.
Trump attributed the rise in illegal border crossings to the robust economy.
“We have people that are trying to get into our country because of how well our country is doing,” Trump said. “You know, in the old days, when the country wasn’t doing well, it was a lot easier. Now everybody wants to come in, and they come in illegally, and they use children. In many cases, the children aren’t theirs. They grab them, and they want to come in with the children.”
The president later added: “You have really bad people coming in and using people. They’re not their children. They don’t even know the children. They haven’t known the children for 20 minutes. And they grab children and they use them to come into our country.”
In August the country saw a 38 percent increase in the number of migrants arrested and charged with illegally crossing the border, Department of Homeland Security officials said.
The Post first reported Friday that the White House was actively considering plans to again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Senior administration officials noted, however, that they are not planning to revive the chaotic forced separations carried out by the Trump administration in May and June that spawned an enormous political backlash and led to a court order to reunite families.
One option under consideration, according to the report, is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice: Stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody.
In an interview with ABC news that aired last week, first lady Melania Trump said she was “blindsided” when she saw on the news that the administration was separating families at the border under its zero-tolerance policy. “I didn’t know that that policy will come out. and I said to [the president] that I feel that’s unacceptable. And he felt the same.” Her concern for the families, she said, led her to make trips to the U.S.-Mexico border in June.
Asked in the interview what she would say to the children who have been separated from their families, she said: “I would tell them to keep strong and that — time will come. It — everything needs to go through the court system.”