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Backlash Over Trump Family-Separation Immigration Policy Grows

The Democrats have staged an impromptu conference to urge Trump to change his policy.

What you need to know
  • Backlash is growing over Donald Trump's family-separation immigration policy
  • The Democrats have held a protest against the controversial stance on illegal immigration
  • The anger at the policy has come after images and videos of detained children emerged in the media

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Democrats staged an impromptu congressional protest and moderate Republicans and key U.S. business groups pressed President Donald Trump on Tuesday to stop separating immigrant children from their parents as an opinion poll showed most Americans oppose the policy.

The family separations and detentions of children at the southern U.S. border, highlighted by the videos of youngsters in cages and an audiotape of wailing children, have sparked an outcry at home and strong condemnation abroad.

Trump, who has made a tough stance on immigration a centerpiece of his presidency, has staunchly defended his administration’s actions. He has cast blame for the separations on Democrats, although his fellow Republicans control both chambers in Congress and his own administration implemented the current policy of strict adherence to immigration laws.

On Tuesday the president again tried to blame Democrats for what he called “loopholes” in the law that require families detained for entering the country illegally either to be separated or released.

“These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation, which we don’t want,” he said in remarks to the National Federation of Independent Business, adding he wanted Congress to give him the legal authority to detain and deport families together.

The president has sought to link an end to the family separations to passage of a wider bill on immigration, prompting Democrats to accuse him of using children as hostages.

Two of the top U.S. business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, decried the separation policy on Tuesday and called for its immediate cessation.

“This practice is cruel and contrary to American values,” Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) Chief Executive Chuck Robbins, who chairs the group’s immigration committee, said in a statement.

Trump won't budge on his immigration stance. Image: Getty Images.

The separations - nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents between mid-April and the end of May - have been blasted by Democrats, some Republicans, medical professionals, rights activists and clergy.

They began after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April that all immigrants apprehended while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally should be criminally prosecuted.

Parents who are referred by border agents for prosecution are held in federal jails, while their children are moved into border shelter facilities under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a Department of Health and Human Services agency.

A Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll released on Tuesday showed fewer than one in three American adults support the policy. The June 16-19 poll found that 28 percent of people polled supported the policy, while 57 percent opposed it and the remaining 15 percent said they do not know.

The images that have sparked widespread condemnation, of children in wire cages, are of a border patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas.