City of North Charleston
President Donald Trump joined Gov. Henry McMaster for the rollout of the first 787-10 in North Charleston in 2017
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster is emphasizing his connection to President Trump with one week left until the Republican run-off for governor, suggesting that the controversial new tactic of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is just a consequence of breaking the law.
"When someone breaks the law, they don't take their children with them wherever they go," McMaster said after a news conference Monday in North Charleston, according to the Post & Courier
McMaster's GOP primary run-off opponent John Warren told the paper, "President Trump is right" on Tuesday, but did not directly address border separations.
The practice of breaking up families comes after the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced a "zero tolerance" policy for those crossing the border into the U.S. last month.
"If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you," Sessions said
while announcing the policy on May 7. "It's that simple."
President Trump and Gov. McMaster
Instead of facing civil deportation proceedings, first-time border crossers are now being charged with crimes. Minors, who are not prosecuted, are labeled "unaccompanied alien children" and put under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
"If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law," Sessions said at a law enforcement conference in Arizona about the new policy. "If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border."
No law currently requires the separation of families at the border.
At least 2,700 children were split from their parents between Oct. 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018. Most of them, around 2,000 children, were separated over the last six weeks of that time period, according to Vox
"If you don't have borders, you don't have a country," McMaster, a former U.S. Attorney, said on Monday. "We want to be careful on who is admitted into the country, and that is the direction in which the president is taking us."
Thirteen minutes into the Monday press conference, McMaster made a point of taking a phone call from the president.
His spokesperson, Caroline Anderegg, was the first one to answer the phone.
"She audibly said for the entire room to hear, 'Yes, he's available,'" according to the P&C
He then took a 10-minute break to speak to President Trump.
As scrutiny over the situation at the border has increased over the last few days, President Trump has blamed Democrats for his administration's tactics.
Greenville businessman John Warren did not answer questions directly related to the Trump administration's policy at the border, instead echoing Trump's position that Democrats should help strengthen border security.
"President Trump is right — it's time the Democrats in Congress come to the table and work with the President to finally do something to protect our borders and stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country," he said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
S.C. Rep. James Smith, who will face the winner of the Republican run-off in November, did not answer CP
requests for comment on the policy, though he did retweet a post Monday from U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona calling the policy "an affront to the decency of the American people."
On Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that Trump "could stop this policy with a phone call" in an interview with CNN
. But Graham, a fellow Republican and Trump golfing buddy did not support ending the zero-tolerance border policy.
"I'm sure that people are going to be less likely to bring their kids to America if they get separated than if they lived together and get released into the country. I'm real sure about that," Graham said.
The S.C. National Guard sent
nine soldiers and a helicopter to Texas on May 21 in support of "President Trump's mission to secure the southern border."