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White House defends "moral" border policy that leads to separation of families

Sanders on separation of families at border
Sanders pressed on separation of families at the border 03:52

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday it's "moral policy" to enforce the law, falsely claiming that federal law mandates the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. In heated exchanges at Thursday's press briefing, Sanders was pressed about remarks by Attorney General Jeff Sessions' at an event in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Thursday in which he cited the Bible to defend the administration's immigration policy. 

"These laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade and the president is simply enforcing them," Sanders claimed. She added that it's "moral policy to follow and enforce the law." CBS News' Paula Reid noted to Sanders that in fact there is no such law that requires the separation of families at the border.

In April, Sessions announced that the Justice Department would prosecute anyone attempting to cross the border illegally, a "zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in the children being separated from parents. He defended the policy shift in his remarks on Thursday.

"First, illegal entry into the United States is a crime -- as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution," Sessions said at the event. "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."

Inside look at a Texas shelter for immigrant children 05:24

Sanders said she was "not aware" of Sessions' comments but said it was "very biblical to enforce the law."

"It's not a policy change to enforce the law," Sanders told Reid. "Our administration has had the same position since the day we started on day one, that we were going to enforce the law. I know it was something that was not high on the priority list in the previous administration but it is on ours. We're a country of law and order. We would like to fix these loopholes and if Democrats want to get serious about it instead of playing political games, they're welcome to come here."

When asked by another reporter whether Sanders, a parent of young children, had empathy for such families, she once again said that the administration would continue to push for a fix to the "broken immigration system" and blamed Democrats for refusing to come to the table to solve the immigration problem. 

Sanders also addressed the release of the Justice Department's Inspector General report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Sanders told reporters that the report "reaffirmed the president's suspicion about Comey's conduct and political bias among some members of the FBI."

And she responded to reporting by CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany that Sanders, along with principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, are both preparing to head for the exits, according to sources inside the White House and close to the administration. Sanders has told friends that she plans to leave the administration at the end of the year. 

Sanders addresses CBS News report on possible departure from White House 00:54

Sanders did not deny the report, but claimed that CBS "got a little ahead of their skis." She said she continues to "love" her job and is "glad to work for the president."

"Each and every day I'll continue to pray for clarity and discernment on what my future looks like," she added. 

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