- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
- All five living first ladies have now openly criticized the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” of separating families who cross the border illegally.
- While current first lady Melania Trump’s statement largely echoed her husband’s decrying the practice, the first ladies all called for it to end.
Historically, former first ladies respectfully refrain from commenting on the policies of the current administration in power. For all five women to speak out against the same policy, with some crossing party lines in doing so, highlights the mounting bipartisan backlash against the practice.
“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,” Bush wrote. “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.”
Former first lady Michelle Obama then re-tweeted a link to Bush’s op-ed, adding the message, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”
While speaking publicly at an event in New York City on Monday afternoon, Hillary Clinton took a forceful stand against the policy, calling President Donald Trump’s repeated claim that family separations are mandated by law an “outright lie.”
Clinton also took aim at Trump administration officials, such as attorney general Jeff Sessions and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who have cited the Bible to defend the policy.
“I went to a lot of years of Sunday school. I even taught it from time to time,” she said. “I’ve studied the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament. And what is being done using the name of religion is contrary to everything I was ever taught. Jesus said suffer the little children unto me – he did not say let the children suffer.”
Rosalynn Carter, the 90 year-old former first lady married to former President Jimmy Carter, put out a statement addressing the separations through her office on Monday afternoon:
“When I was first lady, I worked to call attention to the plight of refugees fleeing Cambodia for Thailand. I visited Thailand and witnessed firsthand the trauma of parents and children separated by circumstances beyond their control,” the statement said. “The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.”
- REUTERS/Carlos Barria
“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” Grisham said. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”
Those words largely echoed what her husband said about the policy on Friday.
“I hate it. I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.
Trump has repeatedly, incorrectly blamed Democrats in Congress for the policy. Sessions announced it on May 8, saying at the time, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”