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Sanders, reporters clash on Trump policy of separating migrant families

The Hill logo The Hill 2018-06-14 Brett Samuels
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(Video provided by USA Today)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clashed with reporters on Thursday when they confronted her on the Trump administration's policy of separating families who illegally cross the border into the U.S.

Sanders fielded several questions on the issue during Thursday's press briefing, repeatedly deflecting blame onto Democrats. But CNN's Jim Acosta and Playboy's Brian Karem pressed Sanders on the morality of the policy.

When Acosta asked Sanders about Attorney General Jeff Sessions citing the Bible as justification for separating families, Sanders did not directly address Sessions's comments, but added that "it is very biblical to enforce the law."

"Where in the Bible does it say that it's OK to take children away from their parents?" Acosta interjected. "You just said it's in the Bible to follow the law."

"I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences, I guess, but please don't take my words out of context," Sanders retorted.

"How is it a moral policy to take children away from their parents," Acosta asked. "Can you imagine the horror that these children must be going through when they're coming across the border? Why is the government doing this?"

a woman wearing a black shirt © Provided by The Hill "Because it's the law and that's what the law states," Sanders responded.

Sessions announced last month that the Justice Department would enact a "zero tolerance" policy and aggressively prosecute adults attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. At the time, Sessions acknowledged the process could lead to children being separated from their parents upon being apprehended.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly defended the policy, arguing that it acts as a deterrent against illegal immigration.

On Thursday, Sanders echoed the president's frequent line of attack, laying blame on Democrats for the policy. Sanders charged Democratic lawmakers with failing to address flawed immigration laws.

"We would like to fix these loopholes, and if Democrats want to get serious about it instead of playing political games, they're welcome to come here and sit down with the president and do something about it," Sanders said.

Karem then jumped in to question if Sanders felt empathy for the migrant children.

"Come on, Sarah. You're a parent. Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through?" he asked.

Sanders circumvented the question, saying, "I know you want to get some more TV time but that's not what this is about."

"These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing and they throw children in cages," Karem continued. "You're a parent. You're a parent of young children. Don't you have any empathy for what they go through?"

Sanders did not address Karem before taking the next question.

Democrats and immigration advocates repeatedly denounced the policy, expressing concern about the treatment of migrant children who are separated from their parents.

Reporters on Wednesday toured a facility in Texas that houses more than 1,400 migrant children. One MSNBC reporter said the children there are "effectively incarcerated," likening the center to a prison.

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