Between May 5 and June 9, 2018, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Photos released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show upwards of 25 people being kept in large cages constructed with chain link fence at a CBP facility in McAllen, Texas. Children are separated at the facility and placed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Public outrage in recent weeks has led politicians in all facets of government to call for the children to be reunited with their families.
The outrage was elevated with the release of an audio recording obtained by ProPublica detailing Central American children sobbing and calling for their parents. A Border Patrol agent can be heard joking about their cries, referring to them as “an orchestra” and saying they are missing a conductor.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who recently came under fire for retweeting British fascist and white nationalist Mark Collett, made a statement on Twitter in support of the Trump administration policy on Tuesday morning.
“The flood of illegals stops ONLY when the people accepting them stop accepting them,” King said. “#NoAmnesty Illegal aliens of all ages will continue to pour across our borders until substantially more are deported than the number of those who arrive seeking amnesty.”
The flood of illegals stops ONLY when the people accepting them stop accepting them. #NoAmnesty Illegal aliens of all ages will continue to pour across our borders until substantially more are deported than the number of those who arrive seeking amnesty.— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 19, 2018
On June 15, King told TMZ there was nothing in the Bible prohibiting the separation of children and their parents at the border.
“There’s nothing cruel about this,” King said. “These are children that are cared for with better care than they get in their home country. They get everything they need. They get a warm and a comfortable place to sleep. They get medical care like a lot of kids in this country don’t get. They get three squares a day. They get exercise, fresh air. So I don’t know how you could ask for more than that.”
J.D. Scholten, a Democrat and King’s opponent in the upcoming congressional race for Iowa’s Fourth District, responded to King’s statements on Tuesday.
“Question @SteveKingIA, children don’t need their parents?” Scholten said in a statement on Twitter.
In the same interview, King said he visited the facilities in 2014 during the Obama administration and described the cages as “chain link panels to divide them,” saying there was air conditioning. King also said he saw the children playing soccer. King said it was “not a cage,” describing it as a “great, big area.”
King also made a statement on Tuesday in response to women who brought babies into the Senate hearing of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz in protest of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy.
"Democrats brought mothers & babies into Horowitz hearing to demonstrate against separating moms from their babies. But the most brutal & final separation of mom & baby is ABORTION!" King said in a statement on Twitter.
Democrats brought mothers & babies into Horowitz hearing to demonstrate against separating moms from their babies. But the most brutal & final separation of mom & baby is ABORTION!— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 19, 2018
Scholten expanded on his opposition to the policy and practice in a statement to the Iowa State Daily.
"Most Republicans even agree that separating these kids from their parents is cruel and uncalled for, and they’re willing to end the process if we increase funding for the border wall yet again,” Scholten said. “It’s unconscionable that they’re using these kids as political bargaining chips.”
While there is no policy in place to separate children from their parents if they are found crossing the border without documentation, there is a policy to prosecute parents in federal court. When the parents are removed, they are sent to a federal facility and the U.S. government then refers to the children as “Unaccompanied Alien Children.”
The backlash to the practice has prompted various members of the government to speak in support of the policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions went so far as to cite Romans 13 in a speech in Fort Wayne, Ind., on June 13. Romans 13 is a Bible verse that says “authorities that exist have been established by God.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Sessions’ sentiment on June 13, saying she was unaware of his comments but that it is “very biblical to enforce the law.”