June 22, 2018 12:29 pm
Updated: June 22, 2018 11:11 pm

Donald Trump attacks Democrats over ‘phony stories of sadness and grief’ about immigration

WATCH : There's confusion about how thousands of migrant children will be returned to their parents.


U.S. President Donald Trump accused Democrats of telling “phony stories of sadness and grief” related to the president’s immigration policies.

Trump lashed out Friday, saying the U.S. “must maintain a strong southern border.”

READ MORE: Crying migrant girl in famous photo was not taken from her mother, dad says

“We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections,” Trump tweeted. “Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”

It appears Trump was referring to a viral photo of a crying Honduran toddler pictured near the U.S.-Mexico border while her mother was searched and detained.

WATCH BELOW: Trump tries to change narrative on migrant policy

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The image, taken by award-winning photojournalist John Moore, became one of the iconic images used by the media to highlight coverage of the Trump’s administration family separation immigration policy. At the time, Global News reported that the girl’s mother was being searched, not that they had been separated.

However, according to a man who says he is the girl’s father, the child and mother were never separated and were detained together in Texas.

READ MORE: Donald Trump signs order to keep migrant families together while in detention

“My daughter has become a symbol of the … separation of children at the U.S. border. She may have even touched President Trump’s heart,” Denis Valera told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Honduran deputy foreign minister Nelly Jerez confirmed Valera’s version of events.

WATCH: Children sob after separation from parents at U.S.-Mexico border

Varela said he was awestruck and pained when he first saw the photo of his crying daughter on TV. “Seeing what was happening to her in that moment breaks anyone’s heart,” he said.

The image of the toddler is also set to be featured on the cover of Time magazine’s new issue.

READ MORE: Trump backs down on separating families, but migrant children still remain in custody

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also slammed the Democrats and media that “exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda.”

WATCH: Melania Trump’s jacket overshadows visit to migrant children in Texas

“It’s shameful that dems and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda. She was not separated from her mom,” Sanders tweeted. “The separation here is from the facts. Dems should join POTUS and fix our broken immigration system.”

The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy had led to the separation of 2,342 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9.

On Wednesday, Trump backed down and abandoned his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border.

WATCH: Authorities at centre of iconic photo amid outrage of Trump immigration policy speak out

Trump signed an executive order requiring immigrant families be detained together when they are caught entering the country illegally for as long as their criminal proceedings take.

—with files from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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