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Melania Trump 'hates to see children separated from their families' amid US-Mexico border row

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18-06-2018 By Nick Allen

a close up of Melania Trump © Provided by The Telegraph Melania Trump waded into a debate over children being separated from their families at the Mexico border, saying the United States should "govern with heart".

In a rare intervention the first lady's spokeswoman said she wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together to achieve "successful immigration reform".

Her comments were taken by some as an implicit criticism by Mrs Trump of her husband's recently introduced "zero tolerance" policy at the border.

Trump to huddle with team on immigration and border security - Provided by Fox News

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It was also possible she was backing the president's recent claim that Democrats in Congress were responsible for the situation.

More than 2,000 children have been removed from their parents over the last six weeks since Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, introduced the new approach.

Under the policy adults are being detained and prosecuted with their children taken away and sent to separate shelters.

Previously, many illegal immigrants were allowed to remain at liberty while they awaited proceedings.

A spokeswoman for the first lady said: "Mrs Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.

"She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs with heart."

a man standing in front of a computer © Provided by The Telegraph Mrs Trump, who immigrated to the United States legally from her native Slovenia, campaigns on behalf of children.

The comments came amid a growing uproar over the detention of minors, including hundreds being held at a former Walmart superstore in Texas .

Mr Trump himself has also said he "hates to see separation of parents and children" and has accused Democrats of pursuing a "horrible and cruel legislative agenda".

On Sunday Kellyanne Conway, his counselor, tried to further distance the White House from responsibility. 

Mrs Conway said: "As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who’s got a conscience, I will tell you that nobody likes this policy.

"Congress passed the law that it is a crime to enter this country illegally. So if they don’t like that law, they should change it."

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress also criticised the policy, blaming the White House.

Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, accused the White House of trying to send a message "that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you".

© Provided by The Telegraph She added: "That's traumatising to the children who are innocent victims and it is contrary to our values in this country."

Democrats suggested Mr Trump was using the separation of families as a negotiating tool to secure funding for his proposed border wall in future immigration legislation.

Adam Schiff, a Democrat congressman, said the administration was "using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build the wall. It's an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress".

Mr Trump is due to meet with Republicans in Congress on Tuesday and there is expected to be a vote on an immigration bill next week.

Steve Bannon, Mr Trump's former chief strategist, defended the separation of families at the border.

He said: "We ran on a policy, very simply, stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration, get our sovereignty back, and to help our workers.

"And so he went to a zero tolerance policy. Zero tolerance, it's a crime to come across illegally, and children get separated."

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