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Ex-DHS official Miles Taylor regrets family separations. Now he's trying to stop Trump.

"Sickly, the president wanted to do it again, deliberately, to keep the kids away from the parents. That's one of the reasons I left this administration," Miles Taylor said.
Image: Reunited migrant family
A father and son walk together as they are cared for in an Annunciation House facility after they were reunited with each other on July 25, 2018 in El Paso, Texas.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, said Republicans like him "don't need to be afraid" of President Donald Trump and should vote against him in the general election.

In an interview with Noticias Telemundo, Taylor said he regretted not previously denouncing Trump's family separation policy at the border. Taylor worked under former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in charge of implementing the family separation policy on the southern border as a tool to deter migration from Central America. Nielsen resigned in April 2019.

Officials have told NBC News that the Trump administration ignored warnings that it could be hard to reunite separated families. Pressured by public opinion and a judicial investigation, Trump signed an executive order to reverse the policy, but privately he continued advocating for family separations, Taylor said.

“In private, he kept telling us. let's do it again, but do it bigger and harder. And in his mind, the purpose was to rip kids away from their parents," Taylor said of Trump. "Sickly, the president wanted to do it again, deliberately, to keep the kids away from the parents. That's one of the reasons I left this administration.”

The former senior official said he believes Nielsen was unfairly criticized for her role in the family separations crisis and recalled a 2018 meeting with Trump at the White House at which she was the only one who voted against the policy.

Taylor said he regrets not denouncing all of this sooner, although he thinks Trump would have "buried the story and American voters would have moved on."

Taylor was involved in the development of the "Remain in Mexico" program to force asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their U.S. immigration cases. He denied the White House's claims that he is using false complaints to benefit himself because he said they have entailed a great personal sacrifice for him.

"We need to be held to account for what happened at the administration," he said. “People like me should have done more. Looking back, I wish I had laid my body on the train tracks and said, 'we cannot implement this no matter what you guys tell us about resources.'"

“I never met a migrant down at the border when we traveled that looked at us and said, 'I'm coming in here to sell drugs, kill Americans and hurt you.' Just about everyone we'd go down and see said, 'I'm coming here because it seems like the greatest country in the world. And everyone tells me I'll have opportunity,'” Taylor said.

“That is the America that we want, and that's the immigration policy that we should try to have. We didn't have that the last few years, a number of us were complicit in allowing that to happen," Taylor added, also blaming Congress for its continued inaction to correct the battered immigration system. "But there's a chance to repair it, right? And that's what we need to be focused on.”

Taylor hopes that with his denunciations, other Republicans see that "they don't need to fear Donald Trump, and it will be a weight off their shoulders to go out there and tell the truth" about his administration.

According to Taylor, Trump "should apologize" for his administration's family separations. Instead, Trump has shown that he only wants to drive immigrants out of the country, while also intimidating his critics in the Republican Party, he said.

Taylor has created the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR), in an effort to "repair" a party that, in his view, is divided between those Republicans who disapprove of Trump but remain silent out of fear, the few others who denounce him and those who simply "cover" for Trump.

The group already has two high-ranking former Trump administration officials, who for now prefer anonymity, according to Taylor.

Regarding Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Taylor said he's "probably the most qualified person to ever run for president of the United States" and while Republicans have repeatedly labeled Biden as a socialist during their national convention this week, "they can tell that Joe Biden's not a socialist."

Taylor, who describes himself as a "fiercely ideologicalRepublican," finds it difficult to support Biden, but in his opinion, he is the only one who can "repair the country."

“Now that doesn't mean, I agree with his policy positions. Again, as a lifelong conservative, I disagree with Joe Biden on an awful lot, but this election is not about policy positions anymore," Taylor said. "We've got to accept that, sometimes, you got to support the other side, especially if it's being led by a better man.”

An earlier version of this story was originally published in Noticias Telemundo.

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Nicole Acevedo contributed.