Former first lady Laura Bush issued a rare castigation of the Trump administration on Sunday, calling family separations at the U.S. border with Mexico “immoral” and drawing parallels to World War II internment camps.
Bush’s editorial in The Washington Post mirrored growing criticism of the Justice Department’s new policy to prosecute as many people as possible who cross the border illegally. The move, announced last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has already resulted in a massive spike in children being separated from their parents. Last week, DHS announced that nearly 2,000 kids had been separated from their parents during a six-week period ending last month. Many are currently being held in juvenile detention centers.
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart. Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”
The Bushes have been notably quiet throughout President Donald Trump’s first term, just as they were during Barack Obama’s presidency. Former President George W. Bush appeared to push back against White House policy last month when he warned about the “dangers of isolation” during an awards ceremony, but his wife’s editorial was a far starker rebuke.
“We pride ourselves on acceptance,” the former first lady wrote. “If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place. People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.”
Several lawmakers and reporters have begun to release accounts about the detention centers, one of which now houses upwards of 1,400 children. MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff said last week that the facility he toured was “called a shelter but these kids are incarcerated.”
First lady Melania Trump appeared to offer her own criticism of the policy on Sunday, telling CNN through a spokeswoman that she “hates to see children separated from their families.”
Some criticized her comments, however, for not going far enough.