Many of the Trump administration's most powerful officials voted in favor of separating migrant children from their parents in 2018, NBC News reports.
Family separation at the border hit its peak in the summer of 2018 after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched the U.S.'s "zero tolerance policy" that prosecuted all immigrants crossing the border, including parents who were then separated from their children. Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller is known as the architect of that plan, but reportedly had the support of other top officials, two officials tell NBC News.
A month after zero tolerance went into effect, families were still not being split up, and Miller was "furious about the delay," NBC News writes. So he led a meeting with Sessions, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and more officials, where he asked them to vote in favor of pushing the policy along. "If we don't enforce this, it is the end of our country as we know it," Miller reportedly said.
The zero tolerance policy ultimately resulted in the separation of nearly 3,000 children from their families, but Miller actually proposed a policy that would split every migrant family at the border, even those who arrived legally and sought asylum. That would've ripped 25,000 more children from their parents. Nielsen reportedly tried to present a moral case against family separation, but when it came down to a vote, "a sea of hands went up" in favor of Miller's expediency, NBC News continues.
Among those invited to the meeting were Vice President Mike Pence, then-Chief of Staff Mark Kelly, and then-White House Counsel Don McGahn. Read more at NBC News.