While the media fulminate over the issue of illegal immigrant parental separation from children — and while they go nearly insane over the implication by certain members of the Trump administration that such policy amounts to an attempt to “deter” illegal immigration — it’s worth remembering that the Obama administration pursued nearly all the same activities as the Trump administration with regard to treatment of an influx of illegal immigration in 2014-2015.
In 2015, for example, The New York Times reported that a federal judge had found that the Obama administration had violated the Flores settlement in keeping families together in custody. According to the Times:
Judge Gee also found that migrant children had been held in “widespread deplorable conditions” in Border Patrol stations after they were first caught, and she said the authorities had “wholly failed” to provide the “safe and sanitary” conditions required for children even in temporary cells.
Furthermore, it turns out that the Obama administration was holding women and children together — and not releasing children — in order to deter further immigration. Yes, you read that right. The same people now complaining about the Trump administration using child/parent separation as a deterrent were entranced with the idea of keeping children and parents together as a deterrent. Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, said at the time regarding family detention, “The practice has reformed considerably since 2 years ago when we first opened these things up, but I think that we need to continue the practice, so we’re not just engaging in catch-and-release on the border.” Johnson, in other words, used the exact same verbiage as the Trump administration to describe keeping children in custody alongside parents — not out of humanitarian concern, but as a deterrent.
Yet Johnson recently ripped parental separation while admitting, “We actually did the opposite of what is going on now by keeping families together. A lot of people objected to holding families in detention facilities. We expanded family detention. That was controversial. Very clearly.”
Here’s the Times:
Initially, Homeland Security officials said they were detaining the families to send a message to others in Central America to deter them from coming to the United States illegally. In February, a federal court in Washington, D.C., ruled that strategy unconstitutional. Officials stopped invoking deterrence as a factor in deciding whether to release mothers and children as they seek asylum in the United States.
But many women and children remained stalled behind bleak walls and fences month after month with no end in sight. Mothers became severely depressed or anxious, and their distress echoed in their children, who became worried and sickly.
In fact, the Obama administration’s statements regarding the deterrent effects of keeping children in custody alongside parents led the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that children had to be released. The court stated:
In January 2015, a group of Central American migrants, who were not represented by Flores class counsel, filed a putative class action, claiming that the government had adopted a no-release policy as to Central American families. … The court found that ICE had not adopted a blanket no-release policy, but found ample support for the plaintiffs’ alternative contention that “DHS policy directs ICE officers to consider deterrence of mass migration as a factor in their custody determinations, and that this policy has played a significant role in the recent increased detention of Central American mothers and children.” Id. at 174. The court preliminarily enjoined the government from using deterrence as a factor in detaining class members. R.I.L-R v. Johnson, No. 1:15-cv-00011- JEB, Dkt. 32 (D.D.C. Feb. 20, 2015).
In other words, keeping children and parents together was not to be treated as a deterrent, according to the Court. Yet the outrage over the Obama administration holding women and children together for deportation as a stated deterrent drew no ubiquitous comparisons to Nazi Germany or Japanese internment from the mainstream media.
The Obama administration was castigated somewhat mildly for keeping children and parents together; the Trump administration has been ripped a new one for separating them. Here, then, is the point: the only real solution sought by the hard Left is release of all illegal immigrant parents into the interior of the United States.