Sen. Bernie Sanders said President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy shows Trump is thinking like an authoritarian who believes his anti-immigrant policies will help him win votes.
“He thinks as authoritarian types all over Europe believe, that if you foment anger against immigrants and show how strong and tough you are on those little children, that it will get you votes in elections,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday on “AC360.”
The Vermont independent has been a staunch critic of Trump’s family separation policy, which led undocumented immigrant children to be separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.
After mounting outrage from both Republicans and Democrats, Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that is aimed to keep far more families together at the border.
Sanders noted the President’s executive order does not address reunification for children already separated from their parents.
“The idea of tearing little children from the arms of their parents, putting them into detention cages, and then making a big deal about an executive order which may do absolutely nothing for these 2,300 children is literally beyond belief,” said Sanders.
The executive order won’t reunite the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents, children whose plight Trump admitted privately this week was deeply damaging to him politically.
The executive order also blamed Congress – specifically, its failure to pass immigration legislation – for the separation of families in the first place, saying the administration had no choice, even as the administration reversed course.
At a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Trump defended his decision to backtrack on the policy.
“We’re going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been,” Trump said.
He added: “The Democrats want open borders – let everybody pour in, we don’t care. Let them pour in from the Middle East, we don’t care, we’re not going.”
Sanders said Trump is following an anti-immigrant strategy that Trump believes will help him win in the polls.
“Clearly, he sees from his political perspective that being anti-immigrant is a winner for him politically,” Sanders said. “I don’t think it is but that’s his logic. And he will continue to mount a very strong anti-immigrant effort.”
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.