Wednesday 26 September 2018

Trump: I won’t let US become migrant camp

  • US accused of torturing children taken from parents
  • President refuses to back down on immigration policy
People in custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, held in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas. U.S. Photo: Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP
People in custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, held in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas. U.S. Photo: Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP

Helen Nianias in Washington

Donald Trump has dug in his heels over his controversial "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has seen thousands of children forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border.

Mr Trump pointed to Europe, which he claimed had become a "migrant camp", and said that would not happen to the United States under his leadership.

Speaking at the White House, the US president said: "The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. You look at what's happening in Europe, and in other places, we cannot allow that to happen. Not on my watch."

Mr Trump spoke amid an uproar among Democrats and Republicans as images of children being held in wire mesh cages, and toddlers crying as they were separated from their mothers, emerged from the border.

He said criminals were using children like a "Trojan horse" to get into America, that "a country without borders is not a country at all", and that people coming in were bringing "death and destruction".

He added: "They are thieves and murderers and so much else."

Mothers and children wait for assistance at a humanitarian centre in the border town of McAllen, Texas. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Mothers and children wait for assistance at a humanitarian centre in the border town of McAllen, Texas. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Criticising the more open immigration policies of his European Nato allies, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!"

He specifically mentioned Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, saying immigration was why "the people of Germany are turning against their leadership" and falsely claiming "crime in Germany is way up".

Mr Trump went on to attack Democrats in Congress, blaming them for the separation of families at the border because they had created "horrible laws" and had been "weak and ineffective".

'Zero tolerance'

The "zero-tolerance" policy was introduced by Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump's attorney general, in April. It means all adults caught crossing the border illegally are detained and prosecuted, rather than being released while they await proceedings. Their children are removed and held in separate facilities.

Over a six-week period, at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents. Hundreds of children are being held at a converted former Walmart store in Texas.

Another detention centre in Texas has been nicknamed "La Perrera" - "the dog kennel" in Spanish. Democrat politicians who were allowed to tour it saw one cage with 20 children inside. Children were sleeping on the floor on thin mattresses with foil sheets as blankets. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat senator, said: "I witnessed loads of kids massed together in large pens of chain-linked fence separated from their moms and dads. Shameful."

Michelle Brane, director of the Women's Refugee Commission, said she found an unaccompanied four-year-old in a detention centre. She said: "The girl was so traumatised that she wasn't talking. She was just curled up in a little ball."

Another young boy was silent in his cage, clutching a photocopy of his mother's identity card.

Amnesty International said the treatment of children "meets the definitions of torture under both US and international law".

It said: "This is a spectacularly cruel policy where frightened children are being ripped from their parents' arms and taken to overflowing detention centres which are effectively cages."

Mr Sessions said if a border wall was built then "we won't face these terrible choices".

But Laura Bush, the former first lady, said the separation of families was "cruel, immoral and breaks my heart". She compared it to the "shameful" internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

Melania Trump, the first lady, also appeared to question the treatment of migrants at the Mexico border, saying the United States should "govern with heart". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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