WASHINGTON — Roughly 50 children a day are being taken from their parents after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). But on Friday, President Trump insisted he’s not the one separating families.
"The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it," he said.
The fact that there is no such law did not stop the president from repeating his assertion half a dozen times.
"The Democrats have to change their law, that’s their law," he said. "That’s the Democrats’ law. We can change it tonight!"
Democrats said what Mr. Trump should change is a "zero tolerance" policy announced on May 7 by his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It means that asylum seekers who would previously have been released pending a hearing are now held behind bars, and their children are sent to separate shelters like a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas.
The policy prompted dozens of protests across the country on Friday, as Republican leaders tried to craft a bill that would at least allow parents and children be detained together. But on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning, Mr. Trump appeared to reject the plan.
"I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one," he said. "I need a bill that gives this country tremendous border security."
Republicans, who have been working on the plan with the White House, were stunned.
"I don’t think we’re sure what bill he is actually commenting on, so we’re waiting for him to clarify," said Rep. Jeff Denham.
So for now, the families remain in limbo, despite bipartisan opposition to the status quo.
"I don’t see any prospect for legislation here," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. "It’s an executive action by the attorney general. It can be changed just like that."
Late Friday, the White House said the president does support the package being put together by Republican leaders and would sign it if it passes. They have not walked back on his comments blaming the separations on a non-existent Democratic law.