Attorney General Jeff Sessions sought to minimize accusations that the Trump administration's family separation policy at the US-Mexico border is similar to the human-rights crisis that defined Nazi Germany.
During an interview with Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Sessions rebuked criticism that likened the current administration's activities to the treatment of Jewish people in Germany during the 1940s.
"It's a real exaggeration," Sessions said Monday night. "In Nazi Germany, they would keep the Jews from leaving the country."
When Ingraham asked if the family separations are being used as a deterrent to illegal immigration, Sessions said, "yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border unlawfully."
The Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, in which children are being separated from their families when they cross the US-Mexico border illegally, drew comparisons to Nazi Germany on Monday.
Critics used that reference to highlight what they described as the callous nature of a policy that splits up families seeking refuge in the US.
During an interview with Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rebuked the criticism: "It's a real exaggeration," Sessions said. "In Nazi Germany, they would keep the Jews from leaving the country."
That comment sparked some additional conversation online overnight. "When you have to explain to people why your policies aren't exactly like Nazi Germany, it's time to rethink your policies," said former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti.
Sessions argued that immigrants seeking asylum would be given due process according to the law, but he quickly pivoted to what he views as the bigger side-effect of illegal immigration to the US.
"People who want economic migration for their own personal financial benefit and what they think is their family's benefit is not basis for a claim of asylum," Sessions said. When asked during his Fox News interview whether family separations were being used as a deterrent to illegal immigration, Sessions acknowledged that it is.
"Yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border unlawfully," Sessions told Ingraham.
Just hours earlier, a reporter asked Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen if the department is "intending to send a message" with its family separation policy. Nielsen called that question "offensive."