The Trump administration says it’s downright biblical to separate undocumented immigrant children from their families.
That’s what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“I thought I’d take a little bit of a digression here to discuss some concerns raised by our church friends about separation of families,” Sessions said. “Many of the criticisms raised in recent days are not fair or logical, and some are contrary to law.”
“First, illegal entry into the United States is a crime: It should be, it must be, if you’re going to have a system of any limits whatsoever! Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. If you violate the law, you subject yourself to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
He added later, according to his prepared remarks: “I have given the idea of immigration much thought and have considered the arguments of our church leaders. I do not believe scripture or church history or reason condemns a secular nation state for having reasonable immigration laws.”
Asked about Sessions’ references to the Bible later on Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the attorney general.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” she said. “That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”
Later, she mischaracterized the child separation issue, attempting to make it seem as though the Trump administration had not changed its policy last month.
Family separations have spiked since Sessions announced the administration’s new policy of criminally prosecuting all illegal border crossers.
That is a change. Though it has always been a misdemeanor to illegally cross the border, it was policy before Sessions’ “zero tolerance” announcement to handle border crossers in civil immigration courts, rather than in criminal courts. Because children cannot be held in criminal detention, the new policy has resulted in the spike of family separations.
“There is no law that requires families be separated at the border. This was the administration’s choice, to move from civil matters in immigration, to criminal, to criminally prosecute people who come across the border illegally, and therefore you have to separate families,” a reporter told Sanders Thursday.
“So why did the administration find that this was necessary, and if it continues to not have much of a deterrent effect, will you continue this policy?”
Sanders repeatedly refused to engage with the question’s premise, that there had been a change in policy.
“Again, the laws are the ones that have been on the books for over a decade, and the President is enforcing them,” she said.
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