An online backlash greeted Ivanka Trump on Sunday, after the president’s daughter tweeted a picture of herself cuddling her two-year-old son at the same time widespread news reports detailed children being taken from their mothers by US border agents.
Trump’s tweet was captioned “My <3! #SundayMorning
The comedian Patton Oswalt was one of thousands to draw a connection between the tweet and the separation of families at the border under policies pursued by the Trump administration.
“Isn’t it the just the best to snuggle your little one – knowing exactly where they are, safe in your arms?” Oswalt wrote. “It’s the best. The BEST. Right, Ivanka? Right?”
Outraged reaction to Trump’s tweet included responses by many mothers who asked the first daughter to contemplate being forcibly separated from her child.
“You’re a mother of 3,” wrote a user with the Twitter handle @litbrit. “So am I. Imagine someone in an ICE uniform takes away your precious baby, and you never get to see him or her ever again. This is what’s going on, thanks to your Dad’s policy. DO SOMETHING.”
Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and former Democratic strategist, wrote: “This is so unbelievably tone deaf, given that public outrage is growing over young kids being forcibly ripped from the arms of their parents at the border – a barbaric policy that Ivanka Trump is complicit in supporting.”
Previously, families suspected of crossing the border illegally were allowed to stay together until their cases were resolved. In early May, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
A Department of Homeland Security official told Reuters: “Those apprehended will be sent directly to federal court under the custody of the US Marshals Service, and their children will be transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.”
On Friday Laura St John of the Florence Project, an Arizona nonprofit that provides legal services to migrant families, told Chris Hayes of MSNBC the policy had been in effect for months, directing border agents to separate children as young as one year old from their parents.
In April, a New York Times report concluded that “more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of four”. The Times also reported that the Department of Health and Human services had lost track of almost 1,500 migrant children placed with US sponsors after showing up at the border alone.
In a tweet on Saturday, Donald Trump, who as president guides the application of immigration laws, blamed Democrats for the separation policy.
“Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the US,” he wrote.
The reasoning by which the president held Democrats responsible for a policy announced and followed by his own administration was unclear.