US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited the Bible in his defence of his border policy that is resulting in hundreds of immigrant children being separated from their parents after they enter the United States illegally.

Sessions, speaking in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on immigration, pushed back against criticism he had received over the policy.

On Thursday, a Catholic cardinal said that separating mothers from their babies was "immoral".

Sessions said many of the recent criticisms were not "fair or logical and some are contrary to law".


"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the Government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," he said.

"Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."

Last month, the Attorney General announced a "zero tolerance" policy that any adult who enters the country illegally is criminally prosecuted.

US protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

According to US Customs and Border Protection, more than 650 children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border during a two-week period in May.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday that she hadn't seen Sessions' comments but affirmed that the Bible did back up the Administration's actions.

"I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible," she said. "It's a moral policy to follow and enforce the law."

In an unusually tense series of exchanges in the White House briefing room, Huckabee Sanders wrongly blamed Democrats for the policy separating children from parents and insisted the Administration had made no changes in increasing the use. Until the policy was announced in April, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

"The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade, and the President is simply enforcing them," she said.

"We don't want this to be a problem."

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, told the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday that he was joining other religious leaders in opposing the Government's border policy.

"Our Government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma," DiNardo's statement said.

Meanwhile, the Government said it would open a temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in far west Texas, as existing facilities for children reach capacity.

Government officials on Thursday gave a tightly controlled tour of another shelter, in Brownsville, Texas, that is inside a former Walmart and is housing nearly 1500 children. Many other facilities in the government network are at or close to capacity.

- AP