As hundreds of migrant children remain separated from their parents, Ivanka Trump is speaking out about the family separations for the first time, saying the issue “was a low point” — but seemingly still supporting the crux of her father’s unapologetic “solution” to the crisis: “Don’t come to our country illegally.”
“That was a low point for me as well,” President Donald Trump‘s daughter and senior adviser said at an Axios event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “I felt very strongly about that and I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children so I would agree with that sentiment. Immigration is incredibly complex as a topic. Illegal immigration is incredibly complicated.”
The mom of three young children continued, “I am the daughter of an immigrant, my mother grew up in communist Czech Republic, but we are a country of laws. She came to this country legally and we have to be very careful about incentivizing behavior that puts children at risk of being trafficked, at risk of entering this country with coyotes or making an incredibly dangerous journey alone.
“These are not easy issues, these are incredibly difficult issues and like the rest of the country, I experienced them actually in a very emotional way,” Ivanka added.
More than 2,500 undocumented migrant children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border since April as a result of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Facing overwhelming backlash over the policy, the president later signed an executive order reversing the practice.
As of last week’s court-ordered deadline to reunite the families, 1 in 3 children remained separated from their parents, according to NBC News.
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Ivanka, 36, faced criticism for staying silent on the issue, with Maria Shriver notably calling on the first daughter to speak out against her father’s policy. “You can’t be an advocate for women, mothers and not speak up about what is happening to women and children at this moment,” said Shriver, adding the hashtag, “#KeepFamiliesTogether.”
Despite Ivanka’s silence, the White House seemed to be trying to paint the first daughter as a heroine in the crisis.
During a meeting with House Republicans last month, Trump revealed that Ivanka had “talked to him about the images of children, and told him what a problem they are.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley also said that Ivanka met with her father to discuss family separations.
“She offered the president her support and she said she would talk to any member of Congress to help find a legislative solution to the issue,” Gidley told CNN at the time.
On Thursday, Ivanka faced more blowback over her response to the crisis. Twitter users criticized her for being complicit in her father’s policy, for not speaking out sooner, for making the family separations “all about her,” and for referring to the ongoing crisis in the past tense.
“Ivanka uses the past tense here as if children are not still currently separated from their parents and as if the administration in which she is purportedly a senior official has not stated it intends to resume separations if it does not obtain a favorable court order,” tweeted Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey, a former National Security Agency lawyer.
“Imagine being Ivanka Trump and feeling comfortable saying that family separation was a low point for *you*,” another Twitter user said.
A third commenter wrote to Ivanka: “Your self serving display of pretend empathy does not absolve you of responsibility. You are complicit.”