First Ladies Speak Against Separations 06/19 06:24
NEW YORK (AP) -- All four former first ladies have joined the current one,
Melania Trump, in an unusual united political front expressing horror at
children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mrs. Trump did not go as far as some of her predecessors, though, and
criticize the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has led to
But Michelle Obama took to Twitter, in support of Laura Bush, to say,
"Sometimes truth transcends party."
Mrs. Obama, a Democrat, wrote those words as she re-tweeted Mrs. Bush, a
Republican, who first spoke out in an opinion piece Sunday in The Washington
"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," Mrs. Bush said on Twitter as she shared her
Hillary Clinton, speaking at a women's event in New York, said the Trump
administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has separated children and
parents at the southern border was a "moral and humanitarian crisis."
Their outrage and call for reforms come after nearly 2,000 minors were
separated from adults in the six weeks following Attorney General Jeff
Sessions' announcement of the zero-tolerance approach to illegal border
In perhaps the most surprising response from a first lady, a statement from
Mrs. Trump's office said she "hates" to see families separated at the border.
Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said Sunday, "She believes we need to be a
country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
The statement said Mrs. Trump hoped "both sides of the aisle" can change
The senior among the first ladies, Rosalynn Carter, spoke through The Carter
Center: "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."
Mrs. Carter led a delegation to Thailand in 1979 for a firsthand look at the
plight of Cambodian and Laotian refugees, recalling today the "trauma of
parents and children separated by circumstances beyond their control."
Mrs. Clinton, former first lady, secretary of state and Democratic
presidential nominee, said at an awards lunch for the Women's Forum of New York
that the separations are not required by law and are not grounded in any
religion. The latter refers to Sessions quoting a Bible verse to defend the
"We are a better country than one that tears families apart," she said.
Anita McBride, executive-in-residence at the Center for Congressional and
Presidential Studies at American University in Washington and a former chief of
staff for Mrs. Bush, said Monday these first ladies are well-known for standing
up for women's issues.
"This issue certainly has tugged at people on all sides of the aisle,
whether they're elected officials or private citizens. Sometimes in our lives,
in our country, in our history, people who have a high profile and an
opportunity to speak out do so," she said.
Carl Anthony, a first ladies historian and author in Los Angeles, said it's
rare but not unprecedented for a majority of all living first ladies to weigh
in similarly on political and catastrophic events. Eleanor Roosevelt actually
contradicted her husband on the internment of Japanese Americans during World
War II and on European refugees during the same war.
"The fact that Mrs. Trump even issued a statement on the immigration policy
is in and of itself worth raising an eyebrow or two because it's so unusual for
first ladies to voice an opinion that could suggest a departure with at least
the administration, if not their husband," Anthony said
Asked whether there was any daylight between the president and first lady on
the issue of family separation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee
Sanders chose to instead address the administration's dispute with Democrats.
"I think we've made it abundantly clear that the daylight exists between
Democrats and Congress and their ability to change this law," she said.
And as for the criticism from Laura Bush, Sanders said that while "we share
the concern" Mrs. Bush voiced about children, Sanders pointed blame back at the
Bush administration, saying, "Frankly, this law was actually signed into effect
in 2008 under her husband's leadership."
In 2008, President George W. Bush focused on the problem of minors crossing
the border without their parents and signed a law unanimously passed by
Congress that called for such "unaccompanied minors" to be released into the
"least restrictive setting."