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U.S. First Lady Melania Trump has called on both Democrats and Republicans to join forces to stop federal authorities from separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border.

In a statement issued by her office, the first lady expressed empathy for affected families, saying the country should be governed “with a heart”.

“Mrs Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.

“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart,” the first lady said in the statement by her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

Nearly 2,000 children were taken away from their parents in a six-week period ending in May under the new policy of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The first lady’s statement echoed the president’s words on Friday saying: “I hate the children being taken away.”

Mr Trump, however, blamed the Democrats, adding: “The Democrats have to change their law – that’s their law.”

Laura Bush, wife of former President George W. Bush, has also launched an outspoken attack on the policy in a statement in the Washington Post.

The former first lady said: “This zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert.

“These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War Two, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

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