“Well it’s a real exaggeration. Of course in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions said.
“This is a serious matter,” he continued. “We need to think it through, be rational and thoughtful about it. We want to allow asylum for people who qualify for it but people who want economic migration for their personal financial benefit and what they think is their family’s benefit is not a basis for a claim of asylum.”
Comparisons between Nazi concentration camps and U.S. internment camps for immigrant children separated from their parents has triggered much debate on Twitter, with the term #TrumpCamps trending in recent days.
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However, the term really took off on Saturday when former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden tweeted an image of Birkenau concentration camp with the words "Other governments have separated mothers and children." Later, he tweeted, "This is Birkenau. Then Germany. Now Poland. NO ONE who now walks through that portal on that siding can casually believe that civilized behavior is guaranteed."
Harry Potter author and regular Trump critic on Twitter, J.K. Rowling, responded to Sessions's comments also trying to explain the difference between Nazi Germany and Trump, writing, "Also, the president doesn’t have a moustache."
A Department of Justice spokeswoman told the Washington, DC newspaper The Hill: "that the Nazi comparisons that others are making" were just a "desperate attempt to distract from the fact that their policies led to the number of families illegally crossing the border jumping five-fold over the last four years.”
The Justice Department asked the high court to make the injunction issued by a federal judge in Chicago cover only that city and not the entire country. Republican President Donald Trump's administration has gone on an offensive against Democratic-governed cities and states that protect illegal immigrants as part of his hard-line immigration policies.
The Justice Department said the injunction "strays far beyond the traditional, proper role of federal courts." The justices likely will ask the city of Chicago for a response before deciding on the request.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized lower courts for imposing nationwide injunctions against some of the administration's most contentious policies.
Chicago sued the administration last year after Sessions said he would cut off cities from certain grants unless they allowed federal immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and provided advance notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.
Since the injunction was issued last year, the Justice Department said it has not issued grants to the nearly 1,000 state and local jurisdictions that have applied, amounting to more than $250 million in funds.
The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction in April, saying Sessions likely exceeded his authority in imposing the conditions on the grants. The 7th Circuit said that because nationwide injunctions have such a powerful effect, judges should rarely grant them, but doing so was proper in this case.
Nationwide injunctions also have blocked Trump's bid to wind down a program protecting immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children from deportation, and to exempt more religious-based employers from a requirement that health insurance provided to employees covers birth control for women.
Reuters contributed to this report