President Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on his false claim that crime in Germany is up, speculating it has increased more than 10 percent as he faces mounting criticism of his immigration policies.
What information, if any, Trump is basing his claim on is unclear. Germany's government reported last month the lowest crime rate since 1992, recording a 10 percent drop in 2017 compared to the previous year.
Trump has been seeking to defend his besieged "zero tolerance" immigration policy which has resulted in the separation of migrant children from their undocumented parents after they are apprehended by immigration authorities.
"Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted," Trump said on Twitter. "Others countries are even worse. Be smart America!"
Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted. Others countries are even worse. Be smart America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
Trump's "zero tolerance" policy refers all undocumented adults for criminal prosecution, a break with past administrations who limited criminal referral for most adults who illegally cross into the US with their juvenile family members. The children, who are not charged with a crime, are separated as a result of their parents' criminal case. As a matter of regulation, they are not allowed to be detained with their parents during legal proceedings.
"We want to solve family separation. I don't want children taken away from parents, and when you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally — which should happen — you have to take the children away," Trump told a gathering of small business leaders.
It was Trump's decision to change prosecution procedures to automatically refer all undocumented adults for prosecution.
Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen twice on Tuesday made public defenses of the policy during an appearance at a sheriffs conference and at the White House before reporters.
She maintained during comments to reporters that the onus for halting the separation of families lies with Congress whom she said "could fix this tomorrow" with new legislation that closes what she and the administration call "loopholes" in the immigration system.
It is unclear if Trump will support legislation that allows undocumented families to remain united if the bill does not also include funding to build his oft-promised border wall, which he initially said Mexico would pay for. Mexico never accepted the proposal and continues to flatly reject any suggestion it will pay for the separation barrier.
"#CHANGETHELAWS Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration," Trump tweeted. "Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security."
#CHANGETHELAWS Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
Trump has consistently framed his separation wall as a border security measure.
During her remarks at the White House, Nielsen further scoffed at the suggestion that the administration is trying to send a message with its separation of families, saying: "I find that offensive. No, because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?"
She further denied the separations are a matter of policy.
In May, however, Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, explicitly said the policy would serve as a deterrent.
"It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers," Kelly told National Public Radio during a controversial interview in which he argued that undocumented migrants would not be able to easily assimilate into American society because "they don't have skills."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ripped the administration over its denials of responsibility, saying "If you don't want to change this cruel policy, at least admit it is your decision. Blaming others falsely is cheap, easy, and dishonest.
"It's just a cheap way out, and unbecoming of any president," he told reporters at the Capitol.
At least 10 congressional Democrats have called on Nielsen to resign after her remarks.
Senator Kamala Harris of California, was the first to do so, saying in a statement: "The Department's lack of transparency under Secretary Nielsen's leadership combined with her record of misleading statements including yesterday's denial that the Administration even had a policy of separating children at the border, are disqualifying.
"We must speak the truth. There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families. This Administration can and must reverse course now and it can and must find new leadership for the Department of Homeland Security," she added.
Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, also backed Nielsen's removal.
While several high-profile Republicans have broken with the administration the policy, urging an about-face on humanitarian grounds, none have yet called for the Homeland Security chief's resignation.
So far 21 Democratic state attorneys general led by Hector Balderas of New Mexico have unified behind a call for the Trump administration to end the "cruel and illegal attacks on children and families."
"The Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligations for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials," Balderas said in a statement accompanying the letter the top state lawyers sent to Attorney General Jeff Session and Nielsen.
The consequences continued to ripple for Trump and his administration with at least one Republican governor removing his state's National Guard troops from the US-Mexico border.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ordered the four National Guardsmen and a helicopter he deployed to the border to return from their deployment in New Mexico until the administration changes course.
"Immigration enforcement efforts should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families," he said on Twitter.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker carried out a similar move on Monday when he scrapped a planned deployment.
In a more personal development, 640 members, including dozens of ministers, of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' church brought church law charges against the US's top lawyer for the separation policy.
The members of the United Methodist church charged Sessions with child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church.
"We believe that the severity of his actions and the harm he is causing to immigrants, migrants, refugees, and asylees calls for his church to step into a process to directly engage with him as a part of ourcommunity," the members wrote.