U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Sunday slammed President Donald Trump’s immigration policy of separating children from their parents at the border and compared Trump’s actions to those used in Nazi Germany.
“He is using fear of the immigrant … he is using prejudice … you know who did that?” Gutierrez asked members of Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen.
“That’s the way you got fascism in Germany. That’s the first thing the Nazis did in Germany. They said, ‘Get rid of all those foreigners, and let’s make this a German nation,'” said Gutierrez, a son of Puerto Rican immigrants.
“So understand that blaming other people for your woes is an old strategy, and that’s exactly what the president of the United States is doing,” he said.
Officials in the Trump administration have said the “zero tolerance” strategy is a deterrent to ebb the flow of migrant families across the border. Trump has attempted to deflect blame onto Democratic lawmakers. Speaking with reporters outside the White House Friday, Trump said: “I hate the children being taken away.”
On Sunday, top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said, “Nobody likes” breaking up families and “seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms.”
Conway tried to distance the Trump administration from taking responsibility for separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, even though the administration put in place and could easily end the practice that has led to a spike in cases of split and distraught families.
Trump has tried to blame Democrats, who hold no levers of power in the government today, for a situation that has sparked fury and a national debate over the moral implications of his hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.
Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss pending immigration legislation. The House is expected to vote this week on a bill pushed by conservatives that may not have enough support to pass and a compromise measure the White House has endorsed.
Conway rejected the idea that Trump was using the kids as leverage to force Democrats to negotiate on immigration and his long-promised border wall, even after Trump tweeted Saturday: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!”
Conway put the onus on Democrats, saying if they are serious about overhauling the system, “they’ll come together again and try to close these loopholes and get real immigration reform.”
Asked whether the president was willing to end the child separation policy, she said: “The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board.”
Gutierrez said Trump is shying away from the child separation policy because he is “all of the sudden becoming very uncomfortable with this situation — the visuals of children in cages, the visuals of children being separated from their parents is something that he doesn’t like.”
He went on: “When have you seen Donald Trump move away from being mean and nasty and vicious and vindictive? Never. Until today. This is the first time I’ve seen him move away and try to blame somebody else. Why? Because even he knows in his darkness of his heart that it is evil what he is doing, that it is cruel and inhumane what is going on.”
Gutierrez, one of Trump’s sharpest congressional critics who is not running for re-election, said he and other colleagues hope to visit some of the children who were separated from their parents to check on their well being.
“I wish he would be a dad — for one moment, just don’t be a politician. Be a dad. I can’t think of an act that is more cruel, that is more evil than to rip a child from their parents,” Gutierrez said.
Contributing: The Associated Press