Cincinnati resident Andrew Pappas supported US President Donald Trump’s decision to separate children from parents who crossed the border illegally because, he said, it got Congress talking about immigration reform.
Billy Inman of Woodstock, Georgia, said he felt sorry for the children but that their parents were responsible.
Die-hard Trump supporters remained steadfast, even as heart-rending photos of children held in cages and audio of terrified children crying out for their parents stoked outrage among Democrats and Republicans alike. They believed Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen when they falsely claimed that they had no choice but to enforce an existing law.
After Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to end forced separations _ acknowledging he could act without Congress after all _ they shrugged. The end, they suggested, justified the means, and the separations were the fault of Congress and those crossing the border illegally. “The optics of what’s happening here directly at the border isn’t something that he wants to have on his watch, but at the end of the day, he still wants to focus the attention of Congress on the fundamental need for immigration reform in the United States and I think he’s gonna hold firm on that,” said Pappas, 53.
“His goal was not to rip families apart, I think his goal was to make Congress act on immigration reform,” Pappas added. “And now …everyone’s talking about immigration reform and I think President Trump is getting exactly what he wants.” But enforcement of immigration laws happens at the president’s discretion. Under the Obama administration, families that crossed illegally usually were referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation. In April, Trump’s administration adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy, choosing to prosecute such crossings as crimes, meaning that any minors accompanying that person were taken away.
Nielsen misled the public by denying that separating families was part of US policy. Even so, many Trump supporters blamed the separations on the parents who crossed the border rather than Trump. “The mamas and daddies are responsible for that,” said Inman, a 55-year-old truck driver. “I feel sorry for the kids … but why can’t we protect our borders the way other countries protect theirs?”
Sixty-five-year-old Richard Klabechek of Oak Grove, Minnesota, who attended the president’s rally Wednesday evening in Duluth, Minnesota, said he was unmoved by the audio of crying children, saying it was “the media playing the heartstrings of the public.” And he said Trump was simply being Trump. “I think Trump takes issues on in his own direct way, but it doesn’t fit the politically correct narrative of the media or the Democrats,” said Klabechek, who is retired.
John Trandem, 42, who owns an automotive services company near Fargo, North Dakota, said he has supported all of Trump’s decisions during the border controversy. “He’s certainly not a man without compassion. He’s not a monster as he’s being framed by the media and by the left,” said Trandem, who was a delegate at the 2016 Republican convention where Trump clinched the nomination for president.
“He recognizes that it’s a very challenging issue…Nobody wants to see parents and children separated, but … the blame should be put squarely back on the shoulders of the people who broke the law in the first place.” Trump voter Terry Welch of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, said he blames Congress and its GOP leadership for not reforming immigration laws, though he admits he doesn’t like Trump as a person.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Welch, 43, said of the distraught children. “I think everybody believes that.” Still, he said the president’s dramatic reversal on separating children won’t solve anything: “I see that as placating people.”