President Trump suggested Tuesday while he wants to "solve family separation," splitting the family is part of the process. "I don't want children taken away from parents, and when you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally -- which should happen -- you have to take the children away."
The administration continues to grapple with the specter of children being taken from their parents as it faces a nationwide outcry over the "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting all illegal entries at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mr. Trump said that family separation is "the only solution" to stopping illegal immigration and said that the policy exists "as a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal law," although the recent spike in the number of children being held apart from their parents is a product of the ramped-up enforcement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' zero-tolerance approach.
"These loopholes have created a massive child smuggling trade. Can you believe this?" Mr. Trump said. "In this day and age, we're talking about child smuggling. We're talking about women smuggling, in this day and age."
He described what he claimed to be child smugglers as "very sophisticated" and claimed they're the reason the family separation policy must be in place.
"The smugglers know these rules and regulations better than the people that drew them, as a result there has been a 325 percent increase in minors and a 435 percent increase in the smuggling or attempted smuggling of families and minors into our country," he said. "We're stopping them all the time, by the thousands, but they still get through. We have no wall, we have no border security."
Mr. Trump said he does not support family separation, but ultimately put the onus on Congress to pass legislation allowing families to stay together. He seemed to reject the idea of more immigration judges, an idea which is central to Sen. Ted Cruz's proposed bill to solve the problem. On the other hand, Mr. Trump also complains that asylum cases take too long, although installing more judges would address the problem.
In his remarks, Mr. Trump also criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that "Mexico does nothing for us," while also calling out Mexico's own border security efforts.
"We can no longer be the stupid country we want to be the smart country," Mr. Trump said, adding that Mexico is "not sending their finest (people)."
On Monday, at a White House event billed as a meeting of the president's National Space Council, much of thewhere he once again faulted Democrats for the administration's policy.
"The U.S. will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility, it won't be," Mr. Trump said. He added that if Democrats would "sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly" with regards to immigration legislation.
Mr. Trump will meet later today with Republican members of Congress on Capitol Hill, where he is expected to discuss ongoing efforts on immigration legislation, among other topics.