Trump digs in on immigration amid family separation crisis

- The forced separation of migrant children from their parents fueled a weekend of intense criticism of President Trump's immigration policies. Both Democrats and some Republicans are now calling for an end to the practice at the U.S.-Mexico border. A look at the latest developments:

TRUMP DIGS IN

White House officials have tried to distance themselves from the policy, although the administration put it in place and could easily end it. The president dug in Monday, again falsely blaming Democrats for the escalating crisis.

Trump tweeted: "Why don't the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world's worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?"

A policy that went into effect in May sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. More adults were being jailed as a result, which led to their children being separated from them.

Trump continued to cast blame on Democrats Monday, as he detoured from planned remarks on U.S. space policy to defend his administration's policies. "I say it's very strongly the Democrats' fault," he said at the White House.

"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility," he added. "Not on my watch."

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new "zero-tolerance" policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

Nielsen said that releasing parents with their children amounts to a "get out of jail free card" policy for those in the country illegally.

Speaking at the same conference, Sessions echoed Nielsen's defense of the policy, and called on Congress to act.

"We do not want to separate parents from their children," Sessions said. "If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won't face these terrible choices."

Trump asserted Monday that children "are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth" as a way to enter the United States. He tweeted: "Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border," calling it "historic."
 
ISSUE DIVIDES REPUBLICANS AS DEMOCRATS STEP UP PRESSURE
 
The policy is starting to divide Republicans and their allies as Democrats turn up the pressure.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the practice "cruel" and "immoral" while GOP Sen. Susan Collins also expressed concern. A former adviser to Trump said he thought the issue would hurt the president at some point. Religious groups, including some conservative ones, are also protesting.

Mrs. Bush made some of the strongest comments yet about the policy from the Republican side of the aisle.

"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," she wrote in a guest column published Sunday in The Washington Post. She compared it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which she called "one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history."

The signs of splintering GOP support come after longtime Trump ally, the Rev. Franklin Graham, called the policy "disgraceful." 
 
FIRST LADY HOPES FOR REFORM

First lady Melania Trump issued a statement saying that she "hates" to see families separated at the border and hopes "both sides of the aisle" can reform the nation's immigration laws.

Mrs. Trump "believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart," Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, said Sunday.

She said Mrs. Trump hopes both sides "can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform."

While the statement suggested the matter was an issue for Congress, Democratic lawmakers and others have pointed out that no law mandates the separation of children and parents at the border.
 
REPORTERS VISIT WAREHOUSE HOLDING FACILITY
 
The Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the border. 

Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of immigrant children waited in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.
 
One teenager told an advocate who visited that she was helping care for a young child she did not know because the child's aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl's diaper.

More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility, which was divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and parents with children. The cages in each wing opened into common areas to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting in the warehouse stays on around the clock.

Close to 200 people inside the facility were minors unaccompanied by a parent, the Border Patrol said.
 
5 KILLED IN SUV CRASH WHILE FLEEING FROM BORDER PATROL
 
An SUV crashed Sunday while fleeing from Border Patrol agents in South Texas, killing at least five people, authorities said.

The vehicle carrying 14 people went out of control at more than 100 mph and overturned on Texas Highway 85, ejecting most of the occupants, Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd said.

"From what we can tell the vehicle ran off the road and caught gravel," Boyd said. The driver lost control and the vehicle overturned several times.

Four victims were dead at the scene, Boyd said. He said at least one and possibly two others died at a hospital.

The Border Patrol said in a statement Sunday night that two other vehicles had been traveling alongside the SUV earlier in the day. An agent suspected they were conducting a "smuggling event," according to the statement, which did not elaborate.

The border agent stopped one of the vehicles and another agent stopped a second one. Multiple people from both vehicles were arrested.

The third vehicle kept going when agents encountered it, and a sheriff's deputy took over the chase prior to the fatal crash, the border patrol said.

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