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How the world is reacting to Trump’s family separation policy

“I can’t imagine what the families living through this are enduring.”

Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas.
Central American asylum seekers wait as US Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas.
John Moore/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s policy of family separation at the border is not only receiving domestic condemnation but also garnering strong international pushback.

In the past few days, the US has received a stinging rebuke from its allies in the United Kingdom and Canada, who separately called the policy “wrong.” The United Nations and the pope have also denounced the border tactic. The supreme leader of Iran even commented, saying that the US was taking children away from their families with “complete maliciousness.”

That’s a bad look for Trump specifically and the US more broadly. The US has become much less popular in the world since Trump entered the White House, and it doesn’t look like the family separation policy will do much to help that.

Trump may have realized this. On Wednesday afternoon, after a barrage of negative press and worldwide condemnation, the president signaled he would issue an executive order to end the separation of families. It’s unclear, though, if that would actually stop the practice outright and how, or if, separated children would be returned promptly to their parents.

Still, Trump’s move has seemingly come too little too late. The world has tuned in to what Trump has authorized at the border — and it doesn’t like what it sees.

“I can’t imagine what the families living through this are enduring”

Allies usually stick by each other even when times are tough. But it doesn’t look like America’s friends are behind Trump on the family separation issue.

During a session of Parliament on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May bashed Trump’s policy. “On what we have seen in the United States, pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing,” she told British politicians. “This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with, this is not the United Kingdom’s approach.”

However, May has so far resisted calls to cancel Trump’s visit to the UK in July.

Hours later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke his silence on the issue despite first ignoring immense pressure from lawmakers to say something. In a brief statement to reporters, Trudeau said, “What’s going on in the United States is wrong. I can’t imagine what the families living through this are enduring.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Trump, said added to the outcries the day before. “We do not share the same model of civilization; clearly we don’t share certain values,” Benjamin Griveaux, Macron’s spokesperson, told France 2 television.

Even Marine Le Pen, the far-right, xenophobic, Trump-friendly French politician who finished second in her country’s presidential election last year, offered a rebuke to the US president — albeit a very qualified one. “I am opposed to a procedure that separates parents and children,” she told French press. However, she continued: “Those who are responsible are the immigrant parents and the politicians who encourage them to come.”

But it isn’t just US allies that have weighed in — US adversaries have had quite a bit to say about the matter too. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement posted to his official website on Wednesday that “Seeing the images of the crime of separating thousands of children from their mothers in America makes a person exasperated” and that “the Americans separate the children from the immigrant parents with complete maliciousness.” (Iran, however, is itself one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.)

The UN is also unhappy. “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the head of the UN Human Rights Council (which the US announced Tuesday it will exit), said in Geneva on Tuesday.

Global religious leaders have weighed in too. Most prominently, Pope Francis told Reuters that the US family separation policy is “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values.” He added: “It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution.”

At this point, it’s unclear which will take longer to recover: America’s reputation, or the children separated from their families.

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