President Trump on Monday affirmed his support for his executive order to keep illegal immigrant families united when arrested at the border, calling a New York Times report that he regretted the action “fake news.”
“The executive order was great. It was something that I felt we had to do. We want children staying together,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
The president last week signed the order after widespread criticism of his zero tolerance policy at the border resulting in more children taken from their parents when illegally crossing into the U.S.
The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump privately “groused” that he wished he had never signed the order.
Mr. Trump said the reality was “just the opposite.”
“There was a false story — fake news in the New York Times,” he said. “I wanted to sign that. In fact, I was saying yesterday before I read this phony story in the New York Times [that] I was very very happy that I signed that.”
Mr. Trump made the remarks while meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
The Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy enforced existing laws that result in the separation of children from parents when they begin the criminal process for unlawfully entering the U.S.
While the same type of family separations took place under previous administrations, the zero tolerance policy dramatically increased the numbers over the past six weeks.
During that time about 2,300 children were taken from their parents or the adults they were traveling with and placed into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The laws are horrible having to do with the border, both in terms of security and in terms of taking care of people,” Mr. Trump said.
He said that President Obama also had a “big problem” with family separation at the border. And he noted that some of the photographs recently circulated of children held in cage-like facilities were actually taken in 2014 when the Obama administration struggled with a surge of illegal immigrant children.
“I don’t know what you folks did,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “They used pictures from 2014 taking during the Obama administration. The Bush administration had the same [problem]. It’s the same laws.”
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