White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders smiles as she wishes President Donald Trump a happy birthday, during the daily briefing, Thursday, June 14, 2018, in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The White House on Thursday blamed Democratic lawmakers for the increase in the separation of illegal immigrant parents from their children, saying the opposition party has blocked attempts to fix the immigration laws.

“The separation of illegal alien families is a product of the same legal loopholes Democrats refuse to close,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade and the president is simply enforcing them.”

The administration’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration has resulted in a dramatic increase of children separated from parents being prosecuted for border jumping. The practice sparked a public outcry. Critics called it cruel.

President Trump has made combating illegal immigration a top priority. He proposed changing catch-and-release policies for border jumpers with children, a policy that effectively made children a free pass into America.

The increase in prosecutions by the Trump administration resulted in the higher rate of family separation.

Immigrant advocates estimate that about 500 children have been removed from illegal immigrant parents since the policy took effect last month.

“It doesn’t have to be the law. The president has actually called on Democrats in Congress to fix those loopholes,” said Mrs. Sanders. “The Democrats have failed to come to the table, failed to help this president close these loopholes and fix this problem. We don’t want this to be a problem.”

When announcing the zero-tolerance policy last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the responsibility for keeping families intact rests with the parents....

“If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” he said.

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