President Donald Trump, his attorney general and his Homeland Security chief staunchly defended a "zero tolerance" immigration policy Monday amid growing outrage over the separation of children from parents accused of illegally trying to enter the country.
The administration's unified front came as some Republicans and their supporters, from former first lady Laura Bush to evangelist Franklin Graham, have spoken out against the policy.
Through the end of May, almost 2,000 children were separated from adults who said they were their parents or guardians, federal officials said last week.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking Monday at a National Sheriffs' Association meeting in New Orleans, defended the policy. Trump, at a White House event, pinned the blame for failed immigration laws on obstructionist Democrats.
In April, Sessions announced a policy to refer all cases of immigrants detained for illegal entry for criminal prosecution. The problem is that the rules prohibit detaining children, who are not charged with a crime, with their parents who are. Media reports have described cage-like housing for some children. Nielsen blasted the media reports Monday for misrepresenting the conditions. "We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country" and provide food, medical attention and educational opportunities, she said.
Bush, the former first lady, wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, published late Sunday, that took the policy to task. She wrote that as a resident of a border state, she appreciates the need to protect the nation's boundaries, "but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.'
Earlier, first lady Melania Trump weighed in through her communication director, Stephanie Grisham. Trump, Grisham told CNN on Sunday, "believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs with heart."
Microsoft came under fire on social media for its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that's separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border.
The company now says it's "dismayed," by new actions by the Trump administration to jail immigrant parents who attempt to come to the U.S. without going through legal channels, and take their children away into detention facilities.
" As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents," the company said in a statement.
Immigration changes could be accomplished "very quickly" if Democrats would negotiate in good faith, the president said. "Good for the children, good for the country, good for the world. It could take place quickly." Trump said the U.S. has the world's worst immigration laws, "horrible and tough." But he said security was paramount.
"The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility," Trump said. He added that "a country without borders is not a country at all. We need borders. We need security. ... We have to take care of our people."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Republican measures that would trim legal immigration and strengthen border security have little support in Congress - and Trump knows it. "As everyone who has looked at this agrees, this was done by the president, not Democrats," Schumer tweeted Monday. "He can fix it tomorrow if he wants to, and if he doesn't want to, he should own up to the fact that he's doing it."
"The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition," Trump tweeted Monday. "Crime in Germany is way up." The German Interior Ministry announced last month, however, that the total number of crimes committed in the country in 2017 had fallen 5.1 percent from the previous year. The number of crimes found to be politically motivated fell 4.9 percent. Still, Trump blasted the "big mistake" made across Europe by accepting millions of immigrants "who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!"
"We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!" Trump tweeted.
Nielsen said many people want border officials to "look the other way" and not enforce the law when it comes to families. "We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job," she said. "This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you."
Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department's border policy dictates separation of children from their parents. "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period," Nielsen tweeted late Sunday. For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, the policy of previous administrations remains in place; children will be separated only if they are in danger, if there is no custodial relationship with the adults or if the adult has broken a law.
Sessions said the number of immigrants crossing with children increased sharply during the Obama administration as immigrants determined they would not face criminal prosecution if caught. "We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws," he said. "If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won't face these terrible choices. We will have a system where those who need to apply for asylum can do so, and those who want to come to this country will apply legally.'
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday called the situation "a moral and humanitarian crisis."
Speaking at an awards lunch for the Women's Forum of New York, Clinton said what was happening to families at the U.S.-Mexico border is "horrific."
"Every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged," Clinton said. "The test of any nation is how we treat the most vulnerable among us. We are a better country than one that tears families apart."
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, David Jackson, Carolyn McAtee Cerbin
A suspected drunk driver was shot by sheriff's deputies after leading them on a pursuit across North County freeways Friday night, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said.
Fire crews responded to a fully involved building fire in the 7000 block of Amherst Drive in Rolando.
The woman fatally shot at an Oceanside apartment Friday afternoon was identified as a Navy corpsman, and a suspect is in custody.
Warner Bros. brought out all the stops Saturday at Comic-Con with an army of stars, surprises and new footage from films like "Aquaman," ''Shazam!" and even "Wonder Woman 1984," which is only three and a half weeks into production.
Detectives are investigating the circumstances surrounding a man who died Saturday morning on a sidewalk in Old Town.
Fire crews have reached full containment of a wildfire that spread over hilly rural terrain east of Ramona Friday afternoon, officials said.
A strong high pressure ridge will slowly strengthen and expand, putting Southern California underneath it's dome of hot air.
For years, Honor Flight San Diego has fulfilled its mission to fly San Diego’s war heroes to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their service.
Day two of Comic-Con has come and gone, but tens of thousands of people are still hitting the streets of downtown San Diego – pumping thousands of dollars into the local economy.
A 2-year-old girl is in the hospital Friday with serious injuries after she fell from a fourth-floor window at an apartment complex in San Diego's University City neighborhood, police said.