Attorney General Jeff Sessions quotes Bible to defend immigration policies

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Central American asylum seekers wait as US Border Patrol agents take them into custody near McAllen, Texas, on 12 June 2018 Image copyright Getty Images

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been criticised for citing Bible scripture to back up the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

At an event in Indiana, Mr Sessions was defending the practice of separating undocumented immigrant families apprehended at the border.

He quoted the New Testament and said having children does not shield border-crossing migrants from prosecution.

The Bible verse was once used to justify US slavery, said critics.

Mr Sessions said on Thursday: “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 the government for his purposes.

“Our policy that can result in short-term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified.”

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Media captionLorry full of migrants found in Texas

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders would not comment directly on Mr Sessions’ remarks, but added “it’s very biblical to enforce the law”.

In the House, top Democrat Nancy Pelosi attacked the separations as a “barbaric” policy that “has to stop.”

The Trump administration policy is supported by some Republicans, but others have expressed misgivings.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Congress’ highest-ranking Republican, was asked if he was comfortable with the tactics.

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Media captionMigrant boys detained in a former Walmart in Texas

“No I am not,” he responded. “We believe it should be addressed in immigration legislation.

“We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents.”

The policy has also provoked disquiet among the conservative evangelical community.

Franklin Graham, son of late reverend Billy Graham and a staunch Trump supporter, said the separation policy was “disgraceful”.

“It’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday.

This week, House Republicans pitched a draft immigration bill.

It contained a provision to prevent children and parents from being separated at the border, allowing for them to be detained together.

Also in the bill are provisions to protect 1.8 million Daca ‘Dreamers’, eliminate the diversity lottery, and add $25bn (£18bn) for border security, Republican congressman Jeff Denham told reporters on Wednesday.

The bill, described as a compromise between moderates and conservatives, will be voted on next week.

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