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Hillary Clinton on family separation: “Every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged”

The former presidential candidate slammed the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant parents and children as “horrific.”

Hillary Clinton at a Women’s Forum of New York lunch in June 2018.
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Hillary Clinton squared off again with Donald Trump on Monday, calling the president’s insistence that Democrats are somehow to blame for his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy an outright lie and the practice of separating parents and children “horrific.”

“This is a moral and humanitarian crisis,” Clinton said. “Every one of us who’s ever been a parent or a grandparent, an aunt, a big sister, any one of us who’s ever held a child in our arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged.”

She made the remarks while speaking at an awards lunch for the Women’s Forum of New York on Monday.

The Trump administration recently implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their parents as they try to enter the United States seeking asylum at the US border, in what some say is an attempt to deter other potential migrants. The policy has sent shock waves around the country, igniting outrage on the part of immigration advocates, human rights groups, and citizens across the political spectrum.

Clinton, who has been a fierce advocate of children throughout her career, called the practice “horrific” on Monday. She mentioned the report of a Honduran woman who said her daughter was taken from her while she was breastfeeding her in a detention center and images of detained adults and children in cages.

Clinton also took a swipe at Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recent ruling that will make it harder for victims of gang violence and women fleeing domestic violence to get asylum in the United States. “We have an urgent imperative to stand up for human rights of women and girls around the world and here at home,” Clinton said.

Clinton, who ran a hotly contested race against Trump in 2016 and beat him by 3 million votes, said that during the debates and on the campaign trail she had warned of the potential dangers of Trump’s immigration policies, including that they might result in family separations and people being rounded up and shipped off in trains and buses. “Now, as we watch with broken hearts, that’s exactly what’s happening,” she said.

Clinton isn’t buying the claim that “it’s the Democrats’ fault.” Or the notion that this is somehow tied to the Bible.

President Trump has sought to blame the separation of parents and children at the border on Democrats, and the White House insists what it’s doing is just the law. That’s not true, as Clinton pointed out. “Separating families is not mandated by law at all,” she said. “That is an outright lie. And it’s incumbent on all of us — journalists and citizens alike — to call it just that.”

She also took aim at Sessions’s assertion that what the administration is doing is somehow rooted in the Bible. The attorney general last week cited Romans 13, a Bible passage pertaining to obeying the law, in defending separating children and parents. (The same Bible verse was historically used by Southerners to defend slavery in the lead-up to the Civil War.)

Press secretary Sarah Sanders backed up Sessions’s assertion at a White House press briefing, telling reporters it’s “very biblical to enforce the law.”

Clinton, a Methodist, slammed the administration’s religious defense of its practices. “Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruelty are ignoring a central tenet of Christianity,” she said. She added, “Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children unto me’; he did not say, ‘Let the children suffer.’”

Clinton on Sunday retweeted a message from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, protesting the administration’s practice of treating immigrant children like a “negotiating tool.”

Clinton is the third former first lady to speak out against what is going on at the border. Laura Bush penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday calling the administration’s policies “cruel” and “immoral” and declaring, “It breaks my heart.” Michelle Obama retweeted a quote from Bush, writing, “Sometimes truth transcends party.” Former President Barack Obama retweeted it.

Clinton on Monday said Bush had made an “eloquent” case. “She is absolutely right,” Clinton said.