- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2018

President Trump said Friday he “hates” separating children from their parents at the border, but said he was compelled to follow laws that make jumping the border illegally, which means jailing parents even if they brought their children.

Mr. Trump, in an appearance on Fox News and talking to reporters right after, blamed the law on Democrats, and said he wants to negotiate changes — but he said Democrats aren’t willing to do that.

“The Democrats forced that law upon us. I hate it. I hate to see separation of children and families,” he said in a testy impromptu press conference where combative reporters shouted at him, talked over him and accused him of being the cause of family separation.

Mr. Trump occasionally chided them for their combative approach, saying “Quiet!” when one tried to talk over him on the immigration issue.

When a reporter told him he could use executive action to change the law, he said that’s not how it works. And when a reporter said Republicans could change the law on their own, he reminded the press that the Democratic Caucus in the Senate is 49 seats, or more than enough to filibuster GOP plans — as they have done regularly.

The Trump administration earlier this year announced a zero tolerance policy for illegal border crossers, directing Border Patrol agents to refer them to prosecutors and telling prosecutors to bring cases in every instance where it’s possible.

Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor and doing it after a previous removal is a felony.

While past administrations have pursued charges under those laws, it was far less frequent than a blanket policy. In most cases they only pursued deportation rather than criminal penalties.

Watching a new surge of illegal immigration and concluding that migrants had figured out ways to game the system, the Trump administration figured the zero tolerance policy was a way of changing the incentives again, hoping that putting people in jail for at least a few days and giving them a criminal record would work.

It’s too early to know whether it has had an effect on the flow of people.

But Democrats, and increasingly some Republicans, are balking at the effects, which include children having to be taken from their parents when those parents are jailed.

Democrats say many who are part of the new surge of people should be treated as refugees fleeing rough conditions back home. That’s different, they say, than traditional illegal immigrants seeking jobs or looking to reunite with families.

“We can provide all immigrants who arrive at our border seeking asylum with humane, respectful treatment and return them to their country when necessary. Our country is better than this,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

Ms. Feinstein challenged the president’s comments, tweeting:

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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