United States First Lady Melania Trump on Sunday joined the chorus against the Donald Trump administration’s policy that has led to hundreds of children of undocumented immigrants being separated from their parents while trying to enter the country.

A spokeswoman said Melania Trump “hates to see children separated from their families” and hopes both Republican and Democratic lawmakers can agree on immigration reform. Laura Bush, wife of former Republican President George W Bush, called the policy “immoral”.

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigration. The policy allows authorities to place criminal charges on those caught entering the United States illegally. This has led to nearly 2,000 children being separated from their parents in just six weeks. These children are held in government facilities or placed under foster care – and according to one report, even held in “cages”.

‘Inconsistent with American values’

Writing in The Washington Post on Father’s Day, former First Lady Laura Bush said the policy “breaks her heart”. “I live in a border state,” she wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel.”

She said the pictures of the children’s condition were “eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history”. “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 outside of El Paso,” she wrote.

Melania Trump said through a spokeswoman that “we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart”, reported The New York Times.

Leading Republicans and Democrats on Sunday demanded that Donald Trump stop the practice of separating children from their parents. On Father’s Day, Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations, reported Reuters.

“It is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents,” Republican Senator Susan Collins told CBS.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday urged Washington to end the practice. “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Al Hussein said during his opening statement at a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Trump maintains that the policy can change if the Democrats support his legislation to tighten immigration rules. He has claimed the Democrats are responsible for the current policy.