US First Lady Melania Trump has called for an end to the policy of separating parents and children illegally entering the country from Mexico.
“Mrs. Trump believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” her spokeswoman said.
Her comments follow growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, a BBC report said.
In a recent six-week period there were nearly 2,000 family separations.
Adults who try to cross the border, many planning to seek asylum, are placed in custody and face criminal prosecution for illegal entry.
As a result, hundreds of minors are now being housed in detention centres, and kept away from their parents – a policy which rights groups have criticised as unprecedented.
In her rare intervention, Melania Trump said she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle [Republicans and Democrats in Congress] can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform”.
The President has blamed a law “Democrats gave us” for the policy, but it is unclear what law he is referring to.
In a tweet on Saturday, Trump urged Democrats to work with Republicans to create new laws: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!”
However, critics have pointed out that detaining children apart from their parents was a policy announced by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month and does not require congressional action to stop.
The policy has divided Republicans, with its defenders pointing out that children are routinely taken from parents accused of crimes.
The additional child detentions – reportedly including babies and toddlers – have resulted in some shelters and foster homes reporting that they are running out of space.
On Sunday, Democratic members of Congress paid a “surprise Father’s Day visit” to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in New Jersey, demanding to see detainees separated from their children.