Jeff Sessions on Monday rejected comparisons of the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents to Nazi Germany, saying the Nazi situation was different because “they would keep Jews from leaving the country.”
As Business Insider reports, the attorney general stopped by to chat with Fox News‘ Laura Ingraham about the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” illegal immigration policy. The policy requires children to be separated from their parents when they try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The kids have been kept in warehouse-type conditions that some have compared to prisons.
Some view the policy as disgusting and immoral, and comparisons to Nazi Germany have been raised. Sessions rejected those claims.
“It’s a real exaggeration. In Nazi Germany, they would keep the Jews from leaving the country.”
However, according to a transcript of portions of the interview provided by Media Matters, Sessions did indicate that the policy could possibly be due for some re-thinking.
“We need to think it through, be rational and thoughtful about it.”
Sessions went on to justify the policy by pointing out that the administration wants to allow asylum for people who genuinely need it, but that he doesn’t want to asylum process to be abused simply by people who are trying to come to the U.S. for “their personal financial benefit.”
He also noted that, if the parents wind up being deported, the family will be reunited as the children are returned to their parents before deportation.
When Ingraham asked Sessions if he thought the policy was a deterrent, he said that he hopes people “get the message” and try not to sneak across the border illegally.
By comparison, another Trump administration official, Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was also asked if the policy was intended as a deterrent. In this Facebook video provided by CNN, Nielsen calls that question “offensive.”
As for Sessions, his remarks have been met with harsh criticism. For example, in a tweet, CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti explained that comparisons to Nazi Germany should raise red flags.
“When you have to explain to people why your policies aren’t exactly like Nazi Germany, it’s time to rethink your policies.”
Meanwhile, every living first lady, including Melania Trump, has spoken out against the Zero Tolerance policy, according to Time. Rosalyn Carter, for example, compared the plight of refugees coming to the U.S. to the Cambodian refugees with whom she worked with back in the 1970s.
“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.”