President Donald Trump on Saturday urged voters to pressure Democrats into accepting an immigration deal on his terms, appearing to cite his own administration’s “horrible” policy of stepping up the separation of families held at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s tweet follows a backlash on social media over reports that children are being separated from parents at the border.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said May 7 that the Homeland Security Department will refer “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” to the Justice Department for prosecution, triggering the law that allows for the transfer of the custody of children.
“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally,” Sessions said at the time. “This is just the way the world works.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also signed a memo directing the department to refer all suspected border-crossers to the Justice Department, according to a DHS official.
POLITICO has reported that children encountered at the border can be classified as unaccompanied minors if their parents are prosecuted and detained for criminal charges. When that occurs, the children are transferred into the custody of the Health and Human Services Department.
The Border Patrol caught about 38,000 people at the border in April, which POLITICO reported was about a three times the number from 2017, but still a number that is well below the level in recent decades.
Trump has pushed Congress for a wider deal on immigration before the 2018 midterm elections including measures on DACA, chain migration, and funding for Trump’s border wall, a longstanding campaign promise.
Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier this month said he expects a broad immigration deal “by the spring, early summer.”