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Trump: 'You have to take the children away'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump said on Tuesday that his administration has no choice but to separate children from parents who cross the U.S. border illegally — before essentially admitting it does.

“When you are prosecute the parents for coming in illegally — which should happen — you have to take the children away,” Trump said in a speech to independent business owners in Washington, D.C. “Now you don’t have to prosecute them, but then we’re not prosecuting them for coming in illegally.”

The president is facing bipartisan criticism for his administration’s “zero-tolerance” illegal immigration policy that has resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their families since April, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Many of the children separated from their families have been held in detention centers. In one such facility, hundreds of children were seen in a series of cages made of metal fencing.

Children in custody rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

Trump insisted that there are “only two options” for dealing with immigrants who come to the country illegally: “Totally open borders or criminal prosecution.” But the Bush and Obama administrations chose a third: Dealing with immigrants crossing the border with children largely as civil cases rather than criminal. (Under Obama, the Associated Press notes, parents were removed from their children if they were arrested on other charges or had an outstanding warrant. But the number of cases was “minuscule” compared to the number under Trump.)

“We want to end the border crisis by finally giving us the legal authorities and the resources to detain and remove illegal immigrant families altogether,” Trump said Tuesday, “and bring them back to their country.”

Related: Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of separating families at border, but most Republicans support it

The president said he is also going to seek authorization to not give U.S. aid to countries which “abuse us by sending their people up.”

“Why the hell should we?” Trump said to applause. “Why should we?”

Trump also falsely blamed Democrats for creating “crippling loopholes” that have resulted laws that force family separations at the border.

There is no U.S. law requiring that the children of immigrants entering the country illegally be separated from their parents. This administration — unlike the previous two — is treating the adults as criminals and jailing them, which requires them to be separated from their children.

President Trump speaks at the National Federation of Independent Businesses 75th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The president also complained that the crisis is causing “unbelievably great taxpayer expenses.”

“Nobody knows how much we are paying for this monstrosity that’s been created over the years,” he said. “Legislation that nobody has any idea what they are doing. They don’t even know what it means.”

Earlier Tuesday, the president ramped up his attacks on illegal immigrants who “infest” America in a pair of tweets that, again, blamed Democrats.

“Democrats are the problem,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

“We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally,” he added.

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