As part of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, U.S. officials reportedly separated an undocumented 10-year-old immigrant with Down syndrome from her family at the border. In an appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded to the undocumented girl with Down syndrome being taken from her mother with just: "Womp, womp."
Another guest on the show, former senior DNC adviser Zac Petkanas, had brought up the case on air while laying out examples of how migrant children were affected by Trump's family separation policy. "Womp, womp," Lewandowski replied, interrupting Petkanas as he was talking.
"Did you just say 'womp, womp' to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother?" Petkanas asked. "How dare you. How dare you. How absolutely dare you."
The report about the 10-year-old girl comes as the administration is already drawing heavy condemnation for separating undocumented immigrant children from their families and putting them in cages at detention facilities.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray spoke about the case in question on Tuesday while discussing the administration's family separation policy, which he called "cruel and inhumane.” He said that officials in his country were able to identify 21 Mexican children who were separated from their parents by American immigration officials in recent weeks, seven of whom have still not been reunited with their families.
Videgaray referred to the case of the 10-year-old with Down syndrome as "particularly heartbreaking." After immigration officials reportedly apprehended the girl, her mother and her brother, the 10-year-old was sent to a detention facility in McAllen, while her mother was sent to Brownsville, both in Texas. Vildegaray said that his administration is "working to release the girl, so she can reunite with her father," who is a legal U.S. resident.
Lewandowski's response to Petkanas was widely criticized on Twitter. "Corey Lewandowski was with Trump when he launched his campaign, and he may yet return to the White House in the future. This is disgusting, vile, but also what Trump is all about," Ned Price, a former Obama official, tweeted.
Others referenced the moment on the campaign trail when Trump appeared to mock a disabled journalist.
Although Trump's desire to reduce legal and illegal immigration to the United States has been well-known for some time, it was only in May that his administration announced that it would pursue a "zero-tolerance" policy, which involves separating undocumented children from their parents and placing them in separate detention facilities, often in different cities. Since then, at least 2,342 children have been split up from their parents, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security.
Video from a detention facility in Texas showed hundreds of undocumented children in cages. Soon thereafter, Border Patrol reached out to CBS News and said that the agency is "very uncomfortable" with the use of the word "cages" to describe the detention facilities, although it also acknowledged that the term is "not inaccurate."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has blamed Democrats for the administration's family separation policies, and claimed incorrectly that federal law requires immigration officials to detain children separately from their parents. She also called on Congressional Democrats to pass legislation changing this non-existent law; Senate Democrats responded by releasing legislation that would ban immigration officials from separating children from their parents, but so far, every Senate Republican has refused to support it, effectively dooming its passage.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen flatly denied that the family separation policy exists at all, writing on Twitter that "we do not have a policy of separating families at the border." Days later, she said that the administration "will not apologize for enforcing the laws passed by Congress," though she didn't specify the laws to which she was referring.
Like his press secretary, Trump has also incorrectly claimed that federal law requires his administration to separate families. In a speech Thursday, Trump said that family separation is "a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws," although he didn't explain why his administration decided to implement the policy in May after not doing so for the first year and a half of his presidency.