New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces plan to sue Trump administration over child separation policy

PHOTO: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks to reporters while on board a media boat tour showcasing the state of the dismantling of the old Tappan Zee Bridge, May 8, 2018, in Tarrytown, N.Y.PlayJulio Cortez/AP
WATCH Trump launches into free-wheeling defense of 'zero tolerance policy'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its controversial immigration policies, including the "callous and inhumane" practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border, he announced Tuesday.

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The state of New York will file a multi-agency lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents, according to a press release.

At least 70 children are currently staying in 10 different federal shelters in New York, and that number is expected to rise, Cuomo said.

"The Trump administration's policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy," Cuomo said. "We will not tolerate the Constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government. New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all."

PHOTO: Children of detained migrants play soccer at a newly constructed tent encampment as seen through a border fence near the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018.Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters
Children of detained migrants play soccer at a newly constructed tent encampment as seen through a border fence near the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018.

PHOTO: Children stand in line at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, in a photo released by the Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018.ACF/HHS via Reuters, FILE
Children stand in line at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, in a photo released by the Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018.

The governor has directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services to commence legal action against the federal government's "separation of families" policy.

The lawsuit also accuses the Trump administration of violating the terms of the 1997 Flores Settlement, which "set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and prioritizes the principle of family unity," according to the release.

On Tuesday, Cuomo wrote an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence condemning the federal government's "zero-tolerance" policy and urging the administration to "end the mistreatment of immigrant families at the border."

On Tuesday, Trump continued to defend his immigration policies, telling a group at the National Federation of Independent Businesses in Washington, D.C., that the practice of separating families at the border is being caused by "crippling loopholes" in immigration laws supported by the Democrats.

"Under current law, we have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all illegal immigrant families [of] minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options, totally open borders for criminal prosecution for lawbreaking. And you want to be able to do that," Trump told the audience. "If we don't want people pouring into our country. We want them to come in through the process, through the legal system, and we want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit."

Trump also said that while he wants the U.S. to be a "country with heart," the only option is to stop people from entering the country in the first place.

"I don't want judges, I want border security. I don't want to try people. I don't want people coming in," he said. "If a person comes in and puts one foot in our ground, is essentially welcome to America, welcome to our country, and you never get them out."

PHOTO: A Honduran mother removes her two-year-old daughters shoe laces, as required by U.S. Border Patrol agents, after being detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images
A Honduran mother removes her two-year-old daughter's shoe laces, as required by U.S. Border Patrol agents, after being detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.

More than 75 former U.S. attorneys are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop family separations. The bipartisan group wrote in a letter to Sessions that the decision to implement a policy that has led to more than 2,000 children taken from their parents "falls squarely on your shoulders."

ABC News' Karma Allen and Paola Chavez contributed to this report.

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