Laura Bush: Zero-Tolerance Border Policy 'Cruel' and 'Immoral'

Former first lady Laura Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Former first lady Laura Bush issued a rare policy opinion in an op-ed Sunday, declaring “immoral” the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy that separates families as part of an illegal immigration deterrence effort.

Current first lady Melania Trump, meanwhile, issued a statement saying she “hates to see” the separations and calling for a bipartisan solution.

Writing in the Washington Post, Bush said, “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned,” she added.

Bush stressed that “Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war.”

“We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place,” she continued. “People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer. I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.”

The former first lady noted how another first lady, the late Barbara Bush, visited a care center for children with HIV/AIDS and, at the height of the crisis when stigma surrounding the virus left many people afraid to touch patients, picked up and consoled a dying baby.

Barbara Bush, said Laura Bush, “believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love.”

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?” Laura Bush added. “I, for one, believe we can.”

Melania Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, issued a statement from the first lady Sunday: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

House Republicans are pushing an immigration bill meant to be a compromise that is expected to get few new takers, as it includes the Trump “pillars” of ending family reunification and allocates $25 billion to fund a border wall while providing a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Beneficiaries, or DREAMers.

A more conservative version of the bill would limits DREAMers to receiving residency permits, eliminates the diversity lottery, and slashes legal immigration as well as asylum allowances.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared that the compromise “holds DREAMers and kids who have been separated from their parents hostage in order to cut legal immigration and enact the hard right’s immigration agenda.”

“If the House moderates really want to get something done on immigration, they should not be duped by their leadership for a bill that they know isn’t going anywhere,” he added.