Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday responded to the Trump administration’s decision to separate children and parents who cross the southern border, shortly before President Trump announced he would be signing an executive order to put an end to the practice for now

The Trump administration’s policy, which Mr. Trump and his administration had blamed on Democrats, has been severely criticized in recent days, with images and audio of the separated children emerging. Pointing out that Wednesday marks World Refugee Day, Obama asked Americans to think how their lives and their children’s lives might be different and they had to flee their homeland for free of violence and persecution. 

“Imagine if you’d been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children,” the former president wrote on Facebook. “A place where you finally found yourself so desperate to flee persecution, violence, and suffering that you’d be willing to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness, enduring dangerous conditions, propelled forward by that very human impulse to create for our kids a better life.”

“That’s the reality for so many of the families whose plights we see and heart-rending cries we hear. And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?”

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Obama also retweeted his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, who expressed her solidarity with all other living former first ladies to condemn the family separation.  

“Sometimes truth transcends party,” the former first lady had tweeted. 

Obama has voiced his criticism of Mr. Trump’s other major policy decisions as well. 

In May, he condemned the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. In September 2017, he expressed concern over Mr. Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program he began. He also spoke out about the Trump administration’s travel ban imposed last year. 

Here is Obama’s full post from Wednesday:

Today is World Refugee Day.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have been born in America, imagine for a moment if circumstance had placed you somewhere else. Imagine if you’d been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children. A place where you finally found yourself so desperate to flee persecution, violence, and suffering that you’d be willing to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness, enduring dangerous conditions, propelled forward by that very human impulse to create for our kids a better life.

That’s the reality for so many of the families whose plights we see and heart-rending cries we hear. And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?

Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others, to say “there but for the grace of God go I,” is part of what makes us human. And to find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant – to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time – is part of what makes us American. After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better.

That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have to protect for the generations to come. But we have to do more than say “this isn’t who we are.” We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes. 

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