Current law does not prohibit separating children from their parents.
Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor crime under U.S. law, and when parents are charged they end up in jail, and their children are separated from them – an increasingly dire situation that has attracted the ire of lawmakers from both parties, as well as Christian groups, including Rev. Franklin Graham, a Trump supporter. He said this week that the administration’s efforts that led to families being “ripped apart” was “disgraceful.”
In addition, several evangelical groups sent a letter to the White House earlier this month, asking Trump to protect families at the border that were fleeing violence.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a evangelical pastor and Christian camp director, tweeted Thursday morning that he was personally asking the White House “to keep families together as much as we can.”
In his address, Sessions hit back at the “concerns raised by our church friends about separating families,” calling the criticism “not fair or logical” and even quoting scripture in his defense of the administration’s tough policies.
“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime – as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
He called on religious leaders to “speak up strongly to urge anyone who would come here to apply lawfully, to wait their turn, and not violate the law.”
Many of the children separated from their parents have ended up in enormous facilities that more closely resemble prisons, where they spend 22 hours per day during the week locked inside overcrowded buildings.
Sessions, however, said the U.S. government facilities, which are run by the Department of Health and Human Services, “care for the children in a good and decent and proper way” and blamed the parents of the children for subjecting them to “such a treacherous journey.”
“It’s not as if we just want to see if we can be mean to children,” Sessions said.