Over the weekend, the media went insane over the supposed Trump administration policy of separating illegal immigrant parents from their children. According to the media, Trump could with one quick fix simply prevent the separation of children from their parents; according to the media, all Trump has to do is wave his magic wand, and all will be well.
This is a lie.
More specifically, it’s several lies.
1. Trump Created Separation Of Children From Illegal Immigrant Parents. This is plainly false. In 1997, the federal government made an agreement in a case called Flores not to keep unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in custody beyond twenty days. The settlement said nothing about accompanied illegal immigrant children – children who crossed the border with their parents. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals then ruled that accompanied children also could not be held in custody under the terms of the settlement. This meant that the government either had to release whole families, or that the government had to separate parents from children.
2. Immigrants Seeking Asylum Are Being Punished For Seeking Asylum. This is plainly untrue as well. Immigrants who come to points of entry to seek asylum aren’t actually illegally in the country – they’re not arrested. They’re processed through ICE, and their children stay with them. If, however, illegal immigrants cross the border illegally, the Trump administration now treats them as criminals. If they choose deportation, they aren’t separated from their kids; if they choose to apply for asylum, they stay in the country longer than 20 days, and their kids have to be removed by operation of law.
3. The Trump Facilities Are Awful Thanks To Trump. They may be awful, but they were just as awful under President Obama. These are pictures from Brandon Darby of Breitbart circa 2014:
The big mistake made by the Trump administration here came courtesy of Stephen Miller and John Kelly, both of whom reportedly stated that the administration was separating kids from parents as a sort of deterrent. That’s idiotic. The deterrent is arrest and deportation, not separating children from parents. That’s why the House is attempting to pass some sort of fix here to keep kids with their parents.
But with that said, the media coverage of this issue has been patently irresponsible. Trump isn’t forcing children away from parents. He’s enforcing the law on the books. The legislature can fix that law at any time. The facilities he’s using are the same facilities Obama used. Pretending that this is Japanese internment (as Laura Bush suggested) or the Holocaust (as General Michael Hayden suggested) is ridiculous. This policy ought to be fixed. But lying about it isn’t designed to fix it. It’s designed to prevent a fix by allowing Democrats to play political football with children, believing they’re winning a victory by holding Trump’s feet to the fire with pictures of crying children.