The Slatest

Laura Bush Calls Trump Policy of Separating Families at Border “Cruel and Immoral”

Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush
Former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush in February 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Logan Cyrus/Getty Images

Former first lady Laura Bush, a figure popular among conservatives, spoke out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating children and their parents at the border with a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday in which she called the policy “cruel and immoral” and compared it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

In the column, Bush said she “appreciate[s] the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries,” but did not shy away from blaming the Trump administration for its zero-tolerance policy, which she described as cruel and unjust. “It is immoral,” she wrote. “And it breaks my heart.”

The post, like the march to a tent city for migrant children led by Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and the surprise visit to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center by a group of Democratic lawmakers to talk to immigrants separated from their families, was timed to draw attention from a public celebrating Father’s Day and the relationships between parents and children.

On Friday, officials from the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents from mid-April to the end of May.

Bush noted in particular that many of the children were younger than 4 and compared the practice to past cruelties inflicted by the U.S. government on its own people:

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.

She then pleaded, rather optimistically, to the ideals of the public:

Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents—and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.

The current first lady, Melania Trump, also issued a statement on Sunday about the plight of these migrant children, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” which misleadingly implies that the situation was created by congressional inaction, rather than by administration policy.

President Donald Trump has also falsely asserted that the zero-tolerance policy is the “Democrats’ law,” and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen falsely said on Twitter that “we do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”