Trump supporters in Duluth applaud president's executive order on family separations

“President Trump is a sensitive person."

Jared Goyette
June 20, 2018 - 6:15 pm

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The supporters of President Donald Trump waiting to hear him speak in Duluth overwhelming supported his executive order ending the policy of separating families who crossed the border illegally, while also expressing resentment for the criticism the president received on the issue over the last week.

Kristie Gaddey, 66, of Beecher, Ill., said that the migrant children’s parents were to blame for putting them at risk.

"I think he's doing the right thing, but I also think those parents should not have brought those children if they knew there was any chance this was going to happen. And I think that the people who have lost family members because of illegal aliens, what about their rights?" she asked. 

Richard Kunst, a Catholic priest from Duluth, was set to lead a prayer before Trump's speech. He repeated a claim that NBC News and others have deemed to be false — that the Obama administration had separated families at the border in a similar fashion. 

In reality, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's "zero tolerance" policy in May, saying that anyone who crossed the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted, as opposed to just facing immigration charges, as had previously been the case. That shift, while not changing any law, had consequences — families could be detained together for immigration violations, but children cannot accompany parents being taken to prison for criminal charges. The change was intentional. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that,” Sessions said in a May 7 press conference.

Now, with the executive order, the parents will still be charged criminally but will be detained with their children. 

Kunst repeated Trump’s claim that he was continuing an Obama policy.

"It's interesting how he gets so much blame for something that predates him,” Kunst said.

Nick Foucault, 27, of Duluth, was less worried about the policy details. He supported the executive order and sees Trump as a leader on immigration policy.

“I'm supportive of the change, certainly. The number one issue I have is immigration,” Foucault said. “A common sense step like this, to be able to detain families together, is great, but it doesn't change the fact that this President is serious about securing the border and making sure we have a sensible immigration policy."

Another member of the Foucault family, John, interjected:

“If somebody breaks the law here in Duluth, Minnesota, they are going to be separated from their kid. And if they break the law down there at the border, they are going to be separated from their kid. That's just part of the system."

None of the Trump supporters WCCO Radio spoke with saw his change on the “zero tolerance” policy as a betrayal of principle. They support their president, and his stances on immigration, even when they shift.

“President Trump is a sensitive person, and he does not like that the children are being taken,” said Louis Bergeron, 80, of Centuria, Wisc. “But actually, they're coming here illegally, and in this country, anyone who breaks the law has to go to jail and the kids are separated. He's actually trying to make Congress do their job and pass a law and eliminate loopholes, eliminate these people coming here expecting freebies."

(Reported by Susie Jones in Duluth, written by Jared Goyette in Minneapolis)