Washington Free Beacon senior writer Elizabeth Harrington said Monday that the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy is simply enforcing laws already on the books and meant to disincentivize people from entering the U.S. illegally.
Host Neil Cavuto asked Harrington about the recent backlash the Trump administration has received for its practice of separating immigrant children from their families when they are apprehended for crossing the border illegally. The practice, which Democrats and centrist Republicans have castigated, is part of the administration's zero-tolerance policy, under which all individuals who cross the border illegally, including those seeking asylum, are charged with unlawful entry.
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Federal law prevents kids from being held in the same detention facility as those charged with unlawful entry, so border patrol agents have separated large numbers of children from their families in accordance with the law.
"This isn't really anything new," Harrington said. "These are policies and rules and procedures for when people cross the border. These have been in place for a long time."
Immigration agencies during the Obama administration also separated families at times when a parent was charged with illegal entry.
"The only thing different is the Trump administration has this novel idea of, ‘Hey, we're going to enforce the laws we have on the books. We're going to enforce immigration policy.' So, they're being tough on it because they don't want to incentivize more people to come illegally," Harrington said.
"And [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen said [Monday], ‘If you are truly seeking asylum, come legally, come to the ports of entry, and we'll see what we can do for you," Harrington added. "Otherwise, they're just trying to incentivize people not to cross illegally, not to break the law."
During the Obama administration, migrants exploited immigration laws by using children as a way to get adults into the country, the New York Times noted over the weekend.
Obama's top domestic policy adviser, Cecilia Muñoz, told the paper that immigration authorities went through "every possible idea" when considering how to tackle a migrant crisis at the border, including whether to separate parents from children.
"We spent five minutes thinking it through and concluded that it was a bad idea. The morality of it was clear—that's not who we are," Muñoz said.