White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has seemingly invoked the Bible to justify the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border, drawing anger and ridicule from many online.
At a press briefing on Thursday evening, Sanders responded to a question put forward by CNN journalist Jim Acosta on US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of Christian scripture to justify detaining children separately from their parents.
Acosta asked Sanders to point out where in the Bible the policy found its moral justification.
Why is the US separating migrant children from their parents?
“Where in the Bible does it say it is moral to take children away from their mothers?” he asked.
Sanders responded: “I am not aware of the attorney general’s comments or what he would be referencing … I can say it is very biblical to enforce the law, that is repeated a number of times throughout the bible.”
When pressed to point out a specific verse justifying the policy by Acosta, Sanders lashed out at the journalist.
“I know it’s hard for you to understand even short sentences I guess,” she said, before going on to blame “loopholes” created by the Democrats for the policy.
The comments from Sanders and the similar sentiment expressed by Sessions have earned the ire of many on social media.
Some cited biblical passages that emphasised the need to do justice by the poor and oppressed, while others pointed out the contradiction in justifying a policy, only to blame a rival political party for its existence.
Sessions and Sanders both invoked the Bible to defend ripping babies out of their mother’s arms and placing them in cages.
I’m really not getting what’s happening to my country.
— Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) June 15, 2018
“So, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is blaming Democrats for the Trump regime’s ripping children away from their families and throwing them in prison camps whilst her and Jeff Sessions are citing the Bible to explain why it’s all okay. They are about as Christian as Kim Jong Un is,” wrote twitter user Ricky Davila.
“After listening to Sanders saying the Bible gives the right to take children from their parents I’ve decided … The [Republicans] give Christianity a bad name,” said another user with the name Quancy Clayborne.
Sessions and Sanders are using the Bible to justify children being ripped from their families for the same reason folks hide behind the flag, the anthem and veterans to justify racism…
…because they know how simple-minded their base is and that they will believe anything.
— Robert People (@PeoplesCourt79) June 15, 2018
The issue of child separation on the US-Mexico border has drawn widespread protests since it came to light last month.
US President Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of closing off the flow of migrants from Latin America through Mexico and has repeatedly characterised those making the crossing as potential rapists and criminals.
His administration has taken a tough stance on what it deems to be unlawful crossings of the US-Mexico border and has vowed to prosecute the refugees and migrants who do so.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated the threat to prosecute those who made the crossing.
“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law.”
The “zero tolerance” approach has drawn criticism from those on both sides of the political spectrum, including from the UN human rights office, which said the practice “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of a child”.
Shortly after taking office, Trump signed an executive order, expanding the powers of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to focus on detaining most undocumented immigrants, including those with no criminal record.
The number of interior removals – or deportations of those already in the US – grew by 37 percent during Trump’s first year in office when compared with the same period in 2016, according to government data.
Sessions has also recently come under fire for issuing a ruling that may make it nearly impossible for domestic abuse and gang violence survivors to seek asylum in the US.