Between April 19 and May 31, nearly 2,000 migrant children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to the Associated Press.

They were subsequently sent to foster homes or detention centers.

The practice is part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for migrants who cross the border seeking asylum, and the United Nations has called it a human rights violation.

Now First Lady Melania Trump and all four former living first ladies — Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Rosalynn Carter — have joined the growing chorus of people calling for the practice to end.

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"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN on Sunday. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."

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Laura Bush, who was the first lady from 2001 to 2009, echoed Melania Trump’s sentiments in a strongly worded op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday.

"I live in a border state,” Bush wrote. “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.”

Read More: Texas Detention Center for Migrant Children Compared to 'Prison'

Both women have largely refrained from weighing in on national politics since President Donald Trump took office, and their recent reactions reflect how deeply unpopular the “zero tolerance” policy has become, CNN reports.

Images of children being detained in cages, stories of parents being deported as their children remain in custody, and widespread instances of abuse have seemingly aroused a moral panic around the country.

Melania Trump limited herself to a short statement on the matter, but Bush compared the detention of children to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

She also said that the kindness of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, toward marginalized children should be an example for the country going forward.

Read More: Why Jeff Sessions' Ruling on Domestic Violence and Asylum Matters

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?” she wrote. “I, for one, believe we can.”

The political situation surrounding the separation and detention of migrant children has reached an impasse in recent months, with laws intended to stop the policy stalling in Congress, but the new outspokenness of prominent Republicans could pave the way for a bipartisan solution, according to The New York Times.

Hillary Clinton, another former first lady and former Secretary of State, has consistently spoken out against the practice, and she was recently joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.  

In response to the mounting outrage, Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the DHS, has denied that the agency has a policy of separating children from their parents.

Read More: UN Accuses US of Human Rights Violations for Separating Migrant Families

President Trump, meanwhile, has pinned the blame for the policy on Democrats, claiming the policy he enacted can be ended if Democrats accept a series of harsh restrictions on immigration policy more broadly. Democrats, meanwhile, have repeatedly tried to pass specific legislation aimed at ending the policy.  

"Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!" he tweeted on Saturday. "This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!"

But Bush blunty summed up what many Americans think in her op-ed:

"Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso," she wrote.

Global Citizen campaigns to help migrants and refugees and you can take action on this issue here.


Demand Equity

Melania Trump, Laura Bush Condemn US Policy of Separating Migrant Kids From Parents

By Joe McCarthy