Over the weekend, former President Barack Obama appeared at a campaign rally in support of Michigan Democrats, but spent most of the time lashing out at Republicans and “compassionate conservatives” he claims failed to criticize the president for an anti-immigration policy that he says put children “in pens.”
“I’d like to think there are compassionate conservatives out there who think there’s nothing compassionate about ripping immigrant children from the arms of their mothers at the border and putting them in pens,” he told the audience in Detroit.
Barack Obama: “I’d like to think there are compassionate conservatives out there who think there’s nothing compassionate about ripping immigrant children from the arms of their mothers at the border and putting them in pens.” https://t.co/TasnDghn94 pic.twitter.com/X28e9Gt8M7
— The Hill (@thehill) October 28, 2018
Obama was likely trying to make a point heard over and over again this campaign season: that there’s no such thing as a “good” Republican, because most conservatives will, at some point or another, praise President Donald Trump on a point of policy.
But there was one big problem with Obama’s point: those photos of kids in cages at the border that went viral during the battle over whether families seeking asylum at the United States’ border should be separated pending a hearing, were taken during Obama’s administration.
Dude. The alleged “pens” are facilities and chain link partitions created under the Obama Administration. Seriously. https://t.co/BvbbU30qHa
— Brandon Darby (@brandondarby) October 28, 2018
“The Obama-era photos were originally shot for the Associated Press by photographer Ross D. Franklin, during a Jun. 18, 2014 visit to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) placement center in Nogales, Arizona,” Quartz, not exactly a right-leaning news outlet, claimed back in May when the photos were plastered across social media. “The shelters in those photos have since been closed.”
There’s no denying that President Trump’s immigration policy separated families at the border — or, at least those that presented themselves for asylum after crossing the border somewhere other than an official, legal, border crossing — but situations similar to the one depicted led to a decision in 2013 to ban holding complete families seeking asylum together in one location for any extended period of time.
Trump’s Department of Homeland Security was looking to get around that decision when they ordered families separated, holding adults at detention facilities and children in largely privately run institutions.
The Nogales facility, pictured in the tweets, was inhumane. But it was also Obama’s solution to an influx of unaccompanied minors pouring across the border.
Back in May, the photos took Obama officials by surprise and a handful tried to explain the photos away, suggesting that Obama and Trump differed because Obama was giving the minors a path to citizenship (eventually), whereas the Trump administration was trying to use the separation policy to “punish” asylum seekers. So it was totally fine.
“What the Obama administration did, which is what the law requires, is to find shelter facilities for those kids, which were put together by the Department of Health and Human Services,” the former White House Domestic Policy Director told Business Insider at the time. “So the goal was to get kids out of the Border Patrol, into proper care by HHS, and then HHS is supposed to release them to the least restrictive setting, and in more than 80% of the cases, that was their parents who were already in the United States.”
Trump abandoned his family separation policy after conservatives — White House aides, prominent Republicans, and, in particular, his wife and daughter — brought the inhumanity of the situation to his attention.