The United States government has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in a little more than two months as part of a “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed Friday.
The disclosure marks the first time the Trump administration has specified how many immigrant children have been affected by the policy.
Between April 19 and May 31, the policy led to the separation of 1,995 children who were traveling with 1,940 adults. A DHS spokesman disclosed the figures during a phone call intended to defend the administration’s decision to charge all adults crossing the US border illegally with federal crimes. Previous administrations have referred families traveling with children to immigration courts.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced the “zero tolerance” policy in April, intending it as a deterrent to families attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Children’s advocates, religious groups, and some politicians in both parties have criticized the policy as inhumane.
On Thursday, Sessions cited the Bible to defend the policy, saying that the Apostle Paul issued a “wise command” to obey the government. The comments came as hundreds of protestors in dozens of U.S. cities took to the streets in objection of the policy.
Earlier on Friday, President Trump told reporters that “I hate the children being taken away,” but stopped short of supporting a compromise bill on immigration that Republicans are drafting.