By Michael Hernandez
President Donald Trump falsely claimed Monday that crime in Germany is on the rise in an attempt to defend his own controversial immigration policies.
"The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition," Trump said on Twitter, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition.
"Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!" Trump added.
Germany this year recorded its lowest crime rate since 1992.
Trump's pronouncement comes as he faces widespread criticism at home for his hardline immigration policies, particularly his decision to require undocumented parents to be separated from their children if they are apprehended by immigration enforcement agents.
The result of Trump's "zero tolerance" policy has been met with universal opposition from Democrats, and over the weekend, several prominent Republicans decried the policy.
"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," former first lady Laura Bush wrote in a scathing Washington Post op-ed, further likening the detention centers to internment camps the U.S. sent Japanese citizens to in a "shameful" period during World War II.
The Department of Homeland Security separated roughly 2,000 children from undocumented adults between April 19 and May 31, sending apprehended children to detention centers or foster care, according to the department.
Footage and photographs released by the department depict people, including children, housed in large metal chain-link cages within one of the administration's makeshift shelters.
The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy refers all undocumented adults for criminal prosecution, a break with past administrations who limited criminal referral for most adults who illegally cross into the U.S. with their juvenile family members. The children, who are not charged with a crime, are separated as a result of their parents' criminal case. As a matter of regulation, they are not allowed to be detained with their parents during legal proceedings.
First lady Melania Trump, whose immigration history remains murky, appeared to break with her husband in a statement issued to CNN by her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, in which she said Melania Trump "hates to see" families broken apart.
"She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart," Grisham said.
Republican Senator Susan Collins further said the policy is "traumatizing" children, denying the administration's rationale for the policy as a deterrent for future undocumented migration.
Collins said the Trump administration is trying to "send a message" with its policy but warned "using children is not the answer".
Trump and his top officials have variously argued they are simply following federal law, which is not the case, while seeking to blame Democrats for their policy.
Trump did so again on Monday, asking rhetorically on Twitter: "Why don’t the Democrats give us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws? Where is the outcry for the killings and crime being caused by gangs and thugs, including MS-13, coming into our country illegally?"
The "spectacularly cruel policy," Amnesty International said, "will leave an indelible stain on the reputation of the USA".
"This is nothing short of torture," said Amnesty International's Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas. "The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both U.S. and international law."
Earlier in the day, the UN strongly rapped the policy, urging the U.S. to carry out a full halt to a practice that punishes "children for their parents’ actions.
"I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children, and I encourage the government to at last ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in order to ensure that the fundamental rights of all children, whatever their administrative status, will be at the center of all domestic laws and policies," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
Undeterred, the American president was unwavering in his commitment to his administration's immigration crackdown.
"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility," Trump said at the White House.
In her own stern defense, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a gathering of sheriffs that the U.S. "will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does".
She later told reporters at the White House that the separation policy is not child abuse while urging Congress to act on the matter.
“Congress could fix this tomorrow,” she said, repeatedly denying that the separation of families is administration policy after Trump's senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, told the New York Times "it was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period".
It is unclear if Trump will support legislation that closes what the administration is calling "a loophole" if the bill does not also include funding to build his oft-promised border wall, which he initially said Mexico would pay for.
Nielsen further scoffed at the suggestion that the administration is trying to send a message with its implementation, saying: "I find that offensive. No, because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?"
In May, Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, explicitly said the policy would serve as a deterrent.
"It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers," Kelly told National Public Radio during a controversial interview in which he argued that undocumented migrants would not be able to easily assimilate into American society because "they don't have skills".
In an apparent nod to Trump's immigration policy, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman said the UN chief "believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law".
"Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved," said Stephane Dujarric.