A member of the Central American migrant caravan, holding a child, looks through the border wall toward a group of people gathered on the U.S. side in April. (Photo: Hans-Maximo Musielik, AP)

On separating migrant families, a sharp difference from Georgia gov candidates 

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said “uncontrolled immigration” triggered by legislative failures led to the Trump’s administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp blamed the “same Democrats who are grandstanding and playing politics” for the approach, and said he “unapologetically” stands with President Donald Trump on the debate.  

And Democrat Stacey Abrams called on politicians from both parties to put an end to the practice or risk “inflicting irreparable damage on these families and to our nation.”

The three candidates for Georgia governor have starkly different responses to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which includes separating children from their parents as they try to enter the U.S. seeking asylum.

Trump has said there could be “murderers and thieves and so much else” among the migrants crossing the border, and said the situation is the Democrats’ fault for being “weak and effective” on border security. 

'Zero Tolerance' Immigration Policy: Why Are Children Being Separated From Their Families

There is no pre-existing law that mandates children be separated from their families. The policy was implemented by Trump’s administration and not Democrats, who are the minority party. Nearly 2,000 children, by some estimates, have been taken away from their parents over a six-week period. 

Cagle and Kemp, who square off in a July 24 runoff for the GOP nomination, have both tied themselves to Trump and supported immigration crackdowns. The two have also vowed to send Georgia National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. Gov. Nathan Deal, in the final months of his second term, has said he has no plans to do so

In his statement, Cagle didn’t directly invoke Trump but said Congress must soon build his promised wall on the U.S. border and fix the nation’s “broken immigration system.”

“I want to see these families reunited as soon as possible, but we also must stop the perverse incentives that have encouraged so many families to take this risky journey,” said Cagle.

Kemp said the nation’s immigration system is in “complete disarray” and that a sweeping overhaul is long overdue. 

“We can fix the 'world's worst immigration laws' without compromising our conservative values or undermining public safety,” he said. 

The winner will face Abrams, a former Georgia House Democratic leader who has vowed to oppose what she describes as discriminatory Trump policies. 

“The cruel, immoral practice of separating migrant children from their parents must come to an immediate end,” she said. “Regardless of political party, all of us must stand up and speak up for the voiceless – or risk inflicting irreparable damage on these families and to our nation.”

Here’s Cagle’s full statement:

Today’s heartbreaking stories result from years of failed policies that have encouraged uncontrolled immigration into our country. Congress must act to build the wall, protect our national security and fix our broken immigration system. I want to see these families reunited as soon as possible, but we also must stop the perverse incentives that have encouraged so many families to take this risky journey.

Here's Kemp’s full statement:

"Our borders are broken and America’s immigration system is in complete disarray. Fundamental reform is long overdue but all we get is lip service and empty promises from career politicians in Congress. I unapologetically stand with President Trump and support his efforts to secure the border, crush MS-13, and keep our families safe from criminal aliens. It's time to address the problems created by the same Democrats who are grandstanding and playing partisan politics. We can fix the 'world's worst immigration laws' without compromising our conservative values or undermining public safety."

More recent AJC coverage of the Georgia governor’s race:

A Georgia gun-seller’s credit issues suddenly in GOP gov race focus

Why a Kentucky town is in spotlight of Georgia governor’s race 

The inevitable, demographic hand-off that’s headed Georgia’s way 

Cagle critics call for criminal probe into support for ‘bad’ policy 

Abrams embraces ‘public education’ mantra as Cagle deals with fallout 

EXCLUSIVE: Cagle backed charter bill to nab support from outside group 

New Cagle ad snipes at Kemp: ‘Get that big truck outta here.’ 

Cagle tries to limit damage after secret audio recording  

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper...

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