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WASHINGTON (AP) – Defending his administration’s harsh immigration policies, President Donald Trump says the U.S. won’t be a “migrant camp” or “refugee holding facility.”

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Says Trump: “Not on my watch.”

Unbowed by mounting bipartisan criticism of a policy that separates some immigrant children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump says, “I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault.”

Speaking before an event on U.S. space policy, Trump says there is “death and destruction” caused by people in the U.S. illegally.

He says: “A country without borders is not a country at all.”

Trump has blamed Democrats for the separation of families at the border and is pressuring them to negotiate with Republicans on an immigration bill. But the separations are a consequence of the Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy, announced in April, which maximizes criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. That means more adults are jailed, pending trial, so their children are removed from them.

US President Donald Trump speaks on immigration laws before the National Space Council meeting in the East Room of the White House on June 18, 2018 in Washington,DC. (Photo Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Republicans have a moral and legal responsibility to end a policy that has led to children being separated from their families along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Pelosi says that ripping vulnerable children away from their parents is “an utter atrocity that debases America’s values and our legacy as a beacon of hope, opportunity and freedom.”

Trump has sought to blame Democrats for the family separations, but Pelosi says the “blame for every mistreated child, heartbroken mother and father and broken family rests squarely on the President, and only he can end the trauma.”

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She calls on Trump to “immediately rescind this barbarous policy.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says law enforcement officials do not want to separate parents from their children.

Sessions was speaking Monday in New Orleans at the National Sheriff’s Association conference. He says enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from parents is necessary.

Sessions in April announced a zero-tolerance policy where anyone coming across the border will be prosecuted. That means children must be taken from their parents at the border because children can’t be sent to jail. He says without enforcing the laws, “we encourage hundreds of thousands of people year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country.”

Sessions echoed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s calls for Congress to change the nation’s immigration laws.

He says the country is “dedicated to caring for children.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from their parents.

Nielsen was speaking Monday at the National Sheriff’s Association conference in New Orleans. Nielsen says agents are not acting cruelly, but are enforcing the laws passed by Congress. She says past administrations asked immigration agents to look the other way when families crossed the border illegally, but no longer.

Nielsen says agents shouldn’t apologize for doing their jobs.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the policy “cruel” and “immoral” while GOP Sen. Susan Collins expressed concern about it and a former adviser to President Donald Trump said he thought the issue was going to hurt the president at some point. Religious groups, including some conservative ones, are protesting.

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