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Facing heat for border separations, Trump blasts Germany

Reuters logo Reuters 6/18/2018 Lisa Lambert
In this June 15, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, in Washington. © AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File In this June 15, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, in Washington.

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump accused immigrants in Europe of "violently" changing the culture on Monday and said people should be wary of the same thing happening in the United States, as his administration faced heavy pressure to stop separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats and some in Trump's own Republican Party have strongly condemned the administration for separating nearly 2,000 children from their parents at the border between mid-April and the end of May. Medical professionals have said the practice could cause lasting trauma to children.

Trump, who has sought to make a tough stance on immigration a major goal of his presidency, hit back at critics with a series of tweets on Monday. He cited immigration for causing political instability in Germany and said inaccurately that crime in Germany was "way up."

"Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!" he tweeted. "We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!"

The family separations are the result of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy in which all those apprehended entering the United States illegally, including those seeking asylum, are criminally charged, which generally leads to children being separated from their parents.

Trump administration officials say the zero-tolerance policy, which was not practiced by the two previous administrations, is necessary to secure the border and deter illegal immigration.

Trump has sought to use the widespread outrage over the family separations to push through other immigration priorities that have stalled in Congress, such as funding for his long-promised wall along the Mexican border. He has consistently blamed Democrats for the impasse, even though his fellow Republicans control both chambers in Congress.

"It is the Democrats (sic) fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder (sic) Security and Crime," he tweeted on Monday.

Democrats have accused the president of using children as hostages in the political dispute over immigration.

In Geneva, the top U.N. human rights official called on the Trump administration on Monday to halt its "unconscionable" policy of forcibly separating children from migrant parents irregularly entering the country via Mexico.

BILLS IN CONGRESS

Trump was due to meet with Republicans in the House of Representatives on Tuesday as they prepared to vote on two immigration bills.

One would possibly end the separation policy, fund the border wall and give legal protections to some immigrants who entered the country as children. Details were still in flux.

The bill faces strong headwinds as it is opposed by Democrats, who object to another provision that would cut legal immigration levels, and conservative Republicans who are backing a rival bill that takes a harder line on immigration.

Trump's tweet about Germany referred to a political dispute over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migrant policy that is threatening her governing coalition.

More than 1.6 million migrants, mostly Muslims fleeing wars in the Middle East, have arrived in Germany since 2014.

Contrary to Trump's assertion, the crime rate in Germany is at its lowest point in more than 30 years, according to figures reported by the country's internal ministry last month.

Illustrating the wide concern in the United States over the family separations, Laura Bush, married to the last Republican president before Trump, took the highly unusual step of publishing a Father's Day op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday.

She wrote, "this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart."

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