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Trump Said It's "The Law" To Separate Immigrant Children From Their Parents — But That's Not True

"I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law."

Last updated on June 15, 2018, at 5:28 p.m. ET

Posted on June 15, 2018, at 10:22 a.m. ET

Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump said Friday morning that his administration was separating immigrant children from their parents at the border because it's "the law" and a law created by Democrats — which is not true.

"I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law," Trump said during an impromptu press conference outside the White House on Friday morning.

Fox News

There is no law that determines children must be taken away from their parents when they cross the border.

Crossing the border illegally is a federal misdemeanor, and recrossing illegally is a felony, but there is no law mandating the separation of families that cross the border illegally.

Instead, the increase in family separation, which has seen hundreds of immigrant children detained and kept apart from their parents, comes from a zero-tolerance policy introduced by the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump instead blamed Democrats.

"The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully, and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children," Trump inaccurately said.

Previously, the policy of the Homeland Security Department was that children would be removed from parents if the parents were referred for criminal prosecution. The new zero-tolerance policy means everyone crossing the border illegally is being prosecuted.

But with Trump hoping that Democrats will agree to an immigration bill that would include funding to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, he continued to blame Democrats publicly.

"That is a Democrat bill. That is Democrats wanting to do this," said Trump.

On Thursday, other Trump administration officials also repeatedly declared the administration policy "the law," including Sessions and White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a heated argument with reporters.

The president crossed the White House lawn on Friday morning for a surprise TV appearance on Fox and Friends.

Donald Trump walking down the White House lawn so he can make a surprise live appearance on his favorite TV show is just completely bonkers https://t.co/3VzN44TlKQ

During the interview, Fox host Steve Doocy asked Trump about the policy, also calling it "the law," which it is not.

"But at the same time, Mr. President, people say, look, you rip these families apart; even though it is the law, it's heartless," Doocy said.

"That’s the law and is what the Democrats gave us," the president replied. "We're willing to change it today, if they want to get in and negotiate, but they just don't want to negotiate."

Trump continued to seemingly not understand other parts of US immigration policy, including the diversity visa lottery — also known as the green card lottery — which Trump has long said he wants scrapped.

"You know what a lottery is? You pick names to come into the country. When a country gives us names they're not giving us their finest. It is not good," said Trump on Monday.

Countries do not nominate citizens to enter the diversity visa lottery. Individual citizens apply — and they can only be from certain countries that have not already met immigration maximums. Applicants must also have graduated high school or had two years work experience before they can apply.

Currently there are two Republican bills on immigration which will be put to a House vote next week: a conservative bill by Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and a compromise bill put together by House Republicans.

"I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one," said Trump to Fox and Friends on Friday. "We have to have the wall. We don’t have the wall, there’s no bill."

But in a statement later in the day, deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said the president fully actually supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill.

"In this morning's interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package," Shah added. "He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills."

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