In the past few days, the furor has intensified over the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the US-Mexico border.

Here are four things you need to know about the controversy:

Who is responsible for the family separations?

President Trump and his administration are. They have falsely argued that they are merely enforcing the law. But there is no law that requires families to be separated at the border. The separations began after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this spring that all unlawful immigrants will be prosecuted as criminals. When they are taken into custody, the parents are separated from their children.


The White House has also interpreted a 1997 legal agreement and a 2008 bipartisan human trafficking bill to require separating families — a position that was not taken by either president George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

How many children have been affected?

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Sessions’ announcement. US officials have said that the number may actually be higher and the number of families broken apart may double.

How bad are the conditions in which the children are being held?

Reporters saw a sad scene on Sunday when they visited a facility in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of immigrant children were being held in cages. One cage had 20 children inside. Water bottles, bags of chips, and large foil blankets and mattresses were scattered about. Officials running the facility said everyone is given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes, and medical care.

“It was orderly but it was far from what I would call humane,” Texas Democratic Representative Vicente Gonzalez, who also toured the facility, told the Washington Post.

Democratic lawmakers over the weekend also visited a detention facility in New Jersey, meeting with five men arrested at the border who are seeking asylum. Two had young children taken away from them, and one was separated from his 7-year-old brother, the New York Daily News reported.


One man got on his knees and begged, and another wept while the lawmakers were talking to him, said New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone.

The New York Times told the heartbreaking story of a mother who was put on a plane to Guatemala while her 8-year-old son was kept in custody.

Why did the Trump administration make this move?

Democrats say that Trump is trying to use the separation of children from their families, a practice he initiated but refuses to accept responsibility for, to gain leverage in negotiating immigration legislation in Congress. Trump, among other things, still wants Congress to fund his massive border wall.

White House officials told the Washington Post last week the same thing.

“The thinking in the building is to force the people to the table,” one official said. White House officials also said they believed the harsh tactic would deter immigrants from coming to the United States.

The House of Representatives is preparing to take up immigration legislation this week and Trump is expected to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday.

Trump continued to falsely blame — and try to pressure — Democrats on Monday. “I say it very strongly, it’s the Democrats’ fault,” he said in a public appearance, suggesting that “we can do this very quickly if Democrats come to the table.”

Material from the Washington Post, New York Times, New York Daily News, and Associated Press was used in this report.