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Obama calls for end to the ‘cruelty’ of family separations

US President Barack Obama. / AFP PHOTO / LUKA CONZALEZ

Former US President Barack Obama called Wednesday for an end to the separation of migrant children from parents at the US-Mexico border, saying the “cruelty” of the practice was contrary to American ideals.

“To watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” Obama said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“To find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant ā€“- to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time ā€“- is part of what makes us American,” said the former president, while acknowledging that Wednesday was World Refugee Day.

Obama’s comments joined a firestorm of opposition to the Donald Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy begun in early May that caused the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents after they crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.

Acknowledging the overwhelming criticism, President Trump said at the White House that he would sign an order to keep migrant families together, despite for days insisting that only a new law passed by Congress could halt the separations.

Trump’s decision came after sustained bipartisan criticism, including from former first ladies who spoke out Monday.

Michelle Obama said simply, “Sometimes truth transcends party,” while retweeting an excerpt of a newspaper op-ed by Laura Bush.

Bush wrote in the Washington Post: “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.”

She also compared the family separations to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, considered one of the darkest chapters of American history.

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