Trump has sought to blame Democrats, saying their support for passage of a broader immigration bill would end the separations.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who has got a conscience. … I will tell you that nobody likes this policy.”
“You saw the president (say) on camera that he wants this to end,” she added.
A spokeswoman for Melania Trump told CNN on Sunday that the first lady “hates to see children separated from their families” and hopes lawmakers from both parties can agree on immigration reform.
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, former first lady Laura Bush, wife of the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, said she lives in a border state and appreciates the need to enforce and protect the U.S. borders.
“But this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” Bush wrote, adding the images were “eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”
Democrats have accused the president of effectively turning the children into political hostages to secure stricter immigration measures, such as funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Stop lying to the American people. This is your policy,” Democratic U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said in New Jersey.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will introduce legislation this week aimed at stopping separations, mirroring a similar Senate bill sponsored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
But neither bill has much hope of securing enough support in the Republican-controlled Congress, let alone surviving Trump’s veto pen.
Roy Garcia, 43, attended the New Jersey protest with his wife, Linda, and their sons, 8-year-old Julian and 11-year-old Sebastian.
“It’s hard for me to enjoy Father’s Day knowing what’s happening to other children and families,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking.”