Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of separating families at border, but most Republicans support it

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

As President Trump ramped up his attacks on illegal immigrants who “infest” America, two new polls showed overwhelming opposition to the administration’s policy of separating children from parents who illegally bring them across the border. But the majority of Republicans support it.

According to a Quinnipiac University survey released on Monday, 66 percent of American voters oppose the “zero tolerance” policy, enacted in April, that has resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their families. Just 27 percent of the survey respondents approve.

People taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the U.S., sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

A CNN poll released late Monday also found 66 percent of Americans disapprove of the controversial policy, while 28 percent approve.

Most Republicans, however, support the policy. The Quinnipiac survey found 55 percent of GOP voters approve of the policy, compared to 35 percent who disapprove. The CNN poll had Republican support for family separation at 58 percent, with 34 percent disapproving.

Both polls were conducted between June 14 and June 17 — largely before the national news media descended on detention facilities in Texas to cover the border crisis.

“What is happening here is testing our better angels on multiple fronts,” Lester Holt said while anchoring “NBC Nightly News” live from McAllen, Texas, on Monday night, “challenging our competing values of protecting our sovereignty and honoring our hearts.”

People in custody rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

The Trump administration has struggled to defend its policy and keep its explanations straight.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters Monday that it was “offensive” to imply that the administration had a “policy” of separating parents from children at the border — even though it was the stated purpose of the controversial change in enforcement procedures put in place by the Trump administration.

“I find that offensive,” Nielsen said when asked at Monday’s White House briefing whether the separation of parents and children was meant to send a message. “Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?”

But on Fox News on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was, in fact, one purpose of the “zero-tolerance” policy he announced earlier this year.

“Yes — I hope people get the message,” Sessions said.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, Nielsen’s predecessor as head of the Department of Homeland Security, repeatedly said that separating children from their parents would work as a deterrent.

Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly tried to pin blame for the crisis on Democrats in an effort to gin up congressional support for his border wall plan.

“I say, very strongly, it’s the Democrats’ fault,” Trump said Monday. “The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

The president continued to ratchet up the anti-immigrant rhetoric on Twitter.

“Democrats are the problem,” he tweeted Tuesday morning. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

“We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally,” he added. “Of the 12,000 children, 10,000 are being sent by their parents on a very dangerous trip, and only 2000 are with their parents, many of whom have tried to enter our Country illegally on numerous occasions.”

Additional reporting by Christopher Wilson and Caitlin Dickson


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