Trump Blames Democrats For His Policy / There is no Law Requiring Families to Be Separated
President Trump has claimed that Democrats are responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families apprehended at the border. However, this is mostly false, as existing laws were passed by both parties, weren’t commonly enforced to their full extent in the past, and don’t actually require families to be separated.
In short, although there is existing immigration policy from prior years, for example from 1997 when Clinton was in office (there was also rules passed under Bush and Obama), existing legislation doesn’t actually require separation and previous rules did not effectively require criminal prosecution of anyone crossing the boarder illegally.
The existing rules simply define the process for how separation works when it is required. There is no law that requires families to be separated (thus Democrats did not pass such a law).
Meanwhile, Trump’s administration are the ones who created new strict rules that, along with repealing Obama era rules, have resulted in more families being separated (this is specifically the part that is not logical to blame on Democrats).
The reality is it was Trump’s administration who enacted the current “zero tolerance” policy that has been resulting in an increased number of families being separated (about 17% of children in facilities are there from the newly enacted zero tolerance policy as of late June according to DHS).
That policy has “zero tolerance” for those crossing the boarder, even if they have kids, and detains any adult entering the country in a Federal facility while they await criminal prosecution.
This is different than under the Obama administration, as the Obama administration had been fast tracking families together and had enacted policies like the Family Case Management program for asylum seekers which Trump repealed by executive order.
The main problem, the one that is leading to family separation, is that children cannot be kept in the detention centers adults are being sent to for criminal prosecution due to the zero tolerance policy, and are thus they are being kept in a series of separate facilities for children (that is the sort of stuff that the Clinton era rule dealt with… things like how to humanely treat children who are separated).
Thus, due Trump’s zero tolerance policy in tandem with other policy changes AND the existing rules (some passed by Democrats), families are being separated.
However, the changes which Trump has been criticized for are mostly a result of new Trump administration policies and not existing rules passed by Democrats.
NOTE: Trump could be insinuating that the current family separation is a result of Democrats not rallying to pass Republican immigration policy in Congress (in fact some of his comments do seem to be in reference to this, he has criticized Democrats more than once regarding immigration in response to the outcry over family separation; see the citations below for some examples). The situation in Congress is messy. Both sides have put forward immigration bills. The Democrats bill, which does not contain a wall, won’t be entertained by the majority party in Congress (the Republicans), and the Republicans can’t agree on an immigration bill (and even if they did, Democrats have strict criteria of what they will back). Thus a lot of Trump’s agenda is stuck in Congress… and he may be blaming Democrats for that. His language is a bit confusing honestly. Still, even from that frame, this isn’t the fault of Democrats any more than Obamacare is “the fault” of Republicans.
Some Things Aren’t That Different Though
That said, a lot of what is going on is the same under Trump’s administration and past administrations and is sometimes presented in a confusing way.
For one, when there was an influx of children who needed to be processed in past years they would have to construct make-shift facilities. These can be partly built out of chain link fence. The current influx may be happening due to the new Trump administration policies (where in the Obama years it happened due to an influx of asylum seekers), but regardless that sort of process hasn’t changed.
Thus, although parts of the process and the way centers are run mostly the same as in the past, the zero tolerance policy alongside the cancellation of Obama era policies has led to more families separated, including those who would not have been in the past… and that is the main difference and also the reasoning why Democrats cannot be blamed for Trump’s immigration policy.
Meanwhile, this is all something Trump can change with a stroke of a pen or Congress with a vote (and in fact Trump signed an executive order to keep families together since this article was written).
Why Did Policies Get Changed, Who Changed Them, and Why?
Like many things that happened under the administration the new policies are a result of executive orders and executive and judicial branches of government. Specifically Trump’s orders and rule changes by the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions.
The goal is the same as the wall, DACA repeal, and “Travel Ban” essentially. In each instance it is meant to 1. reform the immigration system, and 2. to show strength [for lack of a better term] and act as a deterrent. The idea being that Trump and the GOP believe that we need strengthen our immigration policy and deter certain types of immigration.
Jeff Sessions says, for example [paraphrasing], that the measure is meant as a deterrent and others in the administration like Kirstjen Nielsen have pointed out this only applies to those entering the country and not those seeking asylum (although that is its own complex issue as there aren’t many immigrants being offered asylum or given a chance to seek asylum currently and some are reporting asylum seekers being separated too).
No One Actually Disagrees With What I am Saying
All that covered, If you really listen to what officials and serious reporters are saying, no one denies what I’ve said above [put aside any slight inaccuracies in the way I’ve presented the information, in general what I’m saying is correct].
In a way, a lot of what is really happening is some talking heads and politicians are twisting the truth and confusing everyone in the name of politics. Trump is using very confusing language, like where he blames Democrats for the current situation with immigration, and the media is reporting “children in cages” (where this is perhaps the weakest point given the similarities between overflow centers in Trump’s years and Obama’s and given the fact that a chain link fence is not really “a cage”).
Why Are We Arguing About Non-Facts When There are Facts to Discuss?
The focus on emotional issues and half truths rather than the whole truth is likely because our ongoing immigration issues and how Trump’s rules augment the current rules is complex and nuanced (while pictures of children in cages and blaming “Trump” or “Obama” is simple).
In short, it’s true that you would find children separated from their families or in federal facilities in the past and that Democrats helped to craft rules for how that works when it was needed, but Trump and his administration’s zero tolerance policy have replaced the fast tracking and keeping families together with a strict policy that is breaking up families in an effort to instil fear in anyone who considers entering the country illegally.
Moving on. Below are just a few excerpts that help back up my above claims and better frame things.
First, here is Trump making the misleading claim (it isn’t a flat out lie, because you can read it to mean that his policy is the fault of the existing law and the fact Democrats won’t support his immigration policy in Congress specifically… tricky):
Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats. Border Security laws should be changed but the Dems can’t get their act together! Started the Wall.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
Now, consider the following excerpt from the New York Times:
In fact, there is no law that requires families to be separated at the border. There is a law against “improper entry” at the border, as well as a consent decree known as the Flores settlement that limits to 20 days the amount of time that migrant children may be held in immigration detention, which a federal judge ruled in 2016 also applies to families. A 2008 anti-trafficking statute — signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush — also requires that certain unaccompanied alien minors be transferred out of immigration detention in 72 hours. None of those laws or precedents mean that children must be taken away from their parents.
It is the Trump administration’s decision this year to prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals that has forced the breakup of families; the children are removed when the parents are taken into federal custody. While previous administrations have made exceptions to such prosecutions for adults traveling with their minor children, the Trump administration has said it will not do so.
Now, consider the excerpt from Fox News:
There is no law that dictates children must be separated from their parents when caught crossing into the country illegally, and there was a time when ICE policy didn’t call for detaining all families.
There are, however, laws against entering the U.S. illegally, and a decree regarding how long children can be held in immigration detention. A 2008 anti-trafficking statute dictates that certain minors must be taken out of immigration detention within 72 hours.
Now, although some may scoff at this, I think it is well written, so consider this excerpt from Snopes:
The rumors correctly suggested that “family detention” as a whole came before the Trump administration, but as of August 2015 intact families at the border were rarely separated. Other iterations of the rumor held that the Obama administration separated more children from their parents than the Trump administration, a claim stemming from an inaccurate retelling of the fact that an influx of unaccompanied minors from Latin America crossed the border in from 2014 onward. In those instances, minor children primarily traveled without their parents.
Claims that the “law to separate families” was passed in 1997, those claims originated with a February 2018 Department of Homeland Security statement referencing “[l]egal loopholes [that] are exploited by minors, family units, and human smugglers.” The DHS statement claimed existing immigration policies “create a pull factor that invites more illegal immigration and encourages parents to pay and entrust their children to criminal organizations.”
In short, there is only one truth and responsible reporting from both sides and officials agree on it (meanwhile, Trump and some other politicians dance around it without denying it)… However, when it comes to spin, there has been massive confusion created by those who are trying to make political points (the President included on this one).
The misleading language on the right [according to some Democrats] is meant to put pressure on Democrats to pass Trump’s version of immigration reform and take heat off of his administration’s policy changes.
Meanwhile, the misleading language on the left [according to some Republicans] is meant to create an emotional issue and to take attention off the fact that Democrats won’t support Trump’s immigration agenda (and to take attention off the fact that parts of the current system were voted on and enforced by Democrats in the past).
Lastly, it is important to note that both parties have immigration bills in the Senate, but Democrat’s bills won’t be considered by the Republican controlled Senate and the Republicans can’t agree on a bill. Meanwhile Trump’s agenda, which requires Congress to act, isn’t getting passed… and that is largely what he is upset about (which is why, like with ObamaCare, he is trying the blame it on Democrats tactic).
If you want the full story, you can check out the citations below. The main point of this page is to clear up the general talking points going around that on the right claim Trump is fully and clearly telling the truth (he is at best being misleading about essentially everything he has said on this issue) and on the left that claim Democrats had no part in the existing policy or never separated families (that isn’t true, existing policy comes from both parties and although it was uncommon families were separated in the past).