Law­mak­ers de­cry sep­a­ra­tions as White House de­fends pol­icy

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Wash­ing­ton — At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is cit­ing the Bi­ble in de­fend­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of separat­ing im­mi­grant par­ents from their chil­dren af­ter they en­ter the U.S. il­le­gally.

Ses­sions was re­spond­ing to crit­i­cism from the arch­bishop of Galve­ston-Hous­ton. Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo told the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops that separat­ing ba­bies from their moth­ers was im­moral.

Speak­ing Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind., Ses­sions said cross­ing the bor­der il­le­gally is a crime and the gov­ern­ment shouldn’t be vil­i­fied for en­forc­ing laws.

He pointed to a verse in the Book of Ro­mans on obey­ing the laws of gov­ern­ment, say­ing, “God has or­dained them for the pur­pose of or­der.”

Wash­ing­ton — Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans dis­tanced them­selves Thursday from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of separat­ing chil­dren from their par­ents at the south­ern bor­der even as the White House cited the Bi­ble in de­fend­ing its “zero tol­er­ance” ap­proach to il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings.

“I can say that it is very bib­li­cal to en­force the law. That is ac­tu­ally re­peated a num­ber of times through­out the Bi­ble,” said White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders. “It’s a moral pol­icy to fol­low and en­force the law.”

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions had ear­lier cited the Bi­ble in his de­fense of the bor­der pol­icy that has re­sulted in hun­dreds of chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated from their par­ents. Speak­ing Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind., Ses­sions pointed to a verse in the Book of Ro­mans on obey­ing the laws of gov­ern­ment, say­ing, “God has or­dained them for the pur­pose of or­der.”

The com­ments came as House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Repub­li­cans said they were not com­fort­able with fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions, which spiked dra­mat­i­cally af­ter the Jus­tice Depart­ment adopted a pol­icy in April of re­fer­ring all il­le­gal bor­der crossers for pros­e­cu­tion.

“We don’t want kids to be sep­a­rated from their par­ents,” Ryan said Thursday.

Sen. James Lank­ford, R-Okla., tweeted Thursday that he told a con­stituent that, “I am ask­ing the White House to keep fam­i­lies to­gether as much as we can.”

In an unusu­ally tense se­ries of ex­changes in the White House brief­ing room, San­ders blamed Democrats for the pol­icy separat­ing chil­dren from par­ents and wrongly in­sisted the ad­min­is­tra­tion had made no changes in­creas­ing the tac­tics’ use.

“The sep­a­ra­tion of il­le­gal alien fam­i­lies is the prod­uct of the same le­gal loop­holes that Democrats refuse to close and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade, and the pres­i­dent is sim­ply en­forc­ing them,” she said.

Ryan and other GOP law­mak­ers said they are seek­ing to re­solve the prob­lem in a com­pro­mise im­mi­gra­tion bill. A draft of that bill would keep chil­dren with their fam­i­lies while they are in Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment cus­tody.

Ryan claimed Thursday that the fam­ily-sep­a­ra­tion pol­icy is be­ing dic­tated by a court rul­ing that pre­vents chil­dren who en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally from be­ing held in cus­tody for long pe­ri­ods.

But House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi pushed back on that as­sess­ment, say­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump could “stop the prac­tice on a dime.”


Demon­stra­tors line up to protest U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and im­mi­gra­tion re­form at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Thursday.

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