The Dáil is to agree an all-party motion condemning the controversial practice in the United States of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their parents.

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump defended the controversial practice of separating children from their parents at the US border, saying he would not allow America to become a migrant camp or a refugee holding facility.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said he would convey the Government's "grave concern" to the acting US Ambassador as soon as possible.

"We know from dark chapters in our own history the consequences of separating children from their parents and how that lasts with them for their entire lives, and can damage them for their entire lives," Mr Varadkar said.  

The matter was raised by PBP-Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who also asked the government to withdraw an invitation to US president Donald Trump to visit Ireland because of the issue. 

"It's horrified the entire nation and world. It's horrified the Minister for Foreign Affairs who put a tweet out about it. But we need a little bit more than a tweet. We need this parliament to send a message that we do not agree with this policy," Ms Coppinger told the Dáil this afternoon.  

Sinn Féin leader May Lou McDonald said that the practice was "unconscionable and mind-boggling" and it was appropriate to send a message.

"I think everyone has been deeply shocked by the images of small distressed children being separated from their parents and being held in what can only be described as cages," Ms McDonald said. 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was a reprehensible policy and called for an all-party motion on the issue to be agreed.

"I think it is very important to give a very clear message to the US government that it is absolutely unacceptable and it should be communicated government-to-government and parliament-to-parliament," Mr Martin said. 

Labour Leader Brendan Howlin described it as a "new low" and "shocking" to separate toddlers from the parents.  

"We have to make our views very clear to the United States," Mr Howlin said. 

Social Democrat co-leader Róisín Shortall said it was important that there was an all-party motion on the issue, but that it would be appropriate for the Taoiseach and Tanáiste to call in the US Ambassador to convey the depth of feeling on the matter. 

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the Rural Independent Group also supported the call for special debate.

The Taoiseach said like many in the house, he loved America. "I always am minded of the words written on the Statute of Liberty - 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses earning to breathe free'. It seems to me that America, is more and more, is departing from it's own values," he said.