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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 
the separations.

   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 
Post.

   "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 
column.

   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 
crossings.

   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 
immigration laws.

   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 
administration's policy.

   "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."


(KA)

 
 
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