Trump Falsely Blames Obama For Appalling Treatment Of Migrant Children

There are children being held in what amount to internment camps on the southern border under appallingly bad conditions and the President is more concerned with falsely blaming his predecessor for the problem.

Yesterday during a televised interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press, President Trump repeated a claim that he and his supporters have made in the past when faced with criticism of the policies he has adopted regarding the treatment of the migrants from Central America at the southern border with Mexico. Specifically, he claimed that the family separation policy was a legacy of the Obama Administration and that he stopped it. As with so many claims this President has made, it turns out this is completely untrue:

President Donald Trump dismissed the plight of migrant children housed in U.S. detention centers and falsely claimed that his predecessor enacted a policy to separate kids from their caregivers after they illegally cross the border.

Asked in an interview broadcast Sunday about recent reports that migrant children have been held in Customs and Border Protection detention centers for weeks without sufficient food, medical care or even basic hygiene supplies such as soap or toothpaste, Trump brushed off responsibility.

“This has been happening long before I got there,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it. Now I said one thing, when I ended it I said, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. More families are going to come up.’ And that’s what’s happened.”

Trump’s interview coincided with a string of reports about children held in the substandard conditions in Border Patrol facilities, including a New Yorker article on Saturday that described flu and lice outbreaks going untreated, and children sleeping on cold floors. The hashtag #CloseTheCamps was trending Sunday on Twitter. “They’re really coming up for the economics,” Trump said of the stream of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. “But I ended separation. I inherited separation from President Obama.”

That isn’t true. While President Barack Obama’s administration detained migrant children who entered the U.S. alone, it didn’t have a policy to separate children from caregivers when they crossed the border together.

That practice emerged in 2018, under Trump, after his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a policy known as “zero tolerance” that called for all migrants who crossed the border outside official ports of entry to be arrested and detained.

Trump ended family separations with an executive order in July 2018 after bipartisan outrage among the public and lawmakers, though there have been periodic reports that the practice continues less systematically.

These comments come amid increasing reports regarding the appalling conditions under which children, some of whom arrived at the border alone and some of whom were separated from their families are being held by the United States Government. A report published recently in The New York Times, for example, describes a tour of a facility in Texas housing children, some of them as young as 7 or 8 years old, described what can only be called inhumane and deplorable, with older teenagers forced to take care of younger children due to a lack of resources and children being housed in cages and going days without bathing or being allowed access to shower facilities. Similar reports have been published in The Washington Post, and by the Associated Press. In addition to this, attorneys for many of these migrant children are presenting more details about the appalling conditions under which they are being held in court proceedings related to the Trump Administration’s separation and detention policies. On top of all of this, the past several months have seen several children dying at these facilities for reasons that aren’t entirely clear but which are most likely related to the conditions in which they are being held.

A new piece at The New Yorker paints an even darker picture in the form of an interview with one of the attorneys currently representing these children regarding his team’s recent visit to a facility in El Paso where children are being held alone: (emphasis added)

When we arrived, on Monday, there were approximately three hundred and fifty children there. They were constantly receiving children, and they’re constantly picking up children and transferring them over to an O.R.R. [Office of Refugee Resettlement] site. So the number is fluid. We were so shocked by the number of children who were there, because it’s a facility that only has capacity for a hundred and four. And we were told that they had recently expanded the facility, but they did not give us a tour of it, and we legally don’t have the right to tour the facility.

We drove around afterward, and we discovered that there was a giant warehouse that they had put on the site. And it appears that that one warehouse has allegedly increased their capacity by an additional five hundred kids. When we talked to Border Patrol agents later that week, they confirmed that is the alleged expansion, and when we talked to children, one of the children described as many as three hundred children being in that room, in that warehouse, basically, at one point when he first arrived. There were no windows.

And so what we did then was we looked at the ages of the children, and we were shocked by just how many young children there were. There were over a hundred young children when we first arrived. And there were child-mothers who were also there, and so we started to pull the child-mothers and their babies, we started to make sure their needs were being met. We started to pull the youngest children to see who was taking care of them.

And then we started to pull the children who had been there the longest to find out just how long children are being kept there. Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer. And so, immediately from that population that we were trying to triage, they were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming.

So, in any event, the children told us that nobody’s taking care of them, so that basically the older children are trying to take care of the younger children. The guards are asking the younger children or the older children, “Who wants to take care of this little boy? Who wants to take of this little girl?” and they’ll bring in a two-year-old, a three-year-old, a four-year-old. And then the littlest kids are expected to be taken care of by the older kids, but then some of the oldest children lose interest in it, and little children get handed off to other children. And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.

Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor. They are being given army blankets, those wool-type blankets that are really harsh. Most of the children said they’re being given two blankets, one to put beneath them on the floor. Some of the children are describing just being given one blanket and having to decide whether to put it under them or over them because there is air-conditioning at this facility. And so they’re having to make a choice about, Do I try to protect myself from the cement, or do I try to keep warm?

(…)

So, on Wednesday, we received reports from children of a lice outbreak in one of the cells where there were about twenty-five children, and what they told us is that six of the children were found to have lice. And so they were given a lice shampoo, and the other children were given two combs and told to share those two combs, two lice combs, and brush their hair with the same combs, which is something you never do with a lice outbreak. And then what happened was one of the combs was lost, and Border Patrol agents got so mad that they took away the children’s blankets and mats. They weren’t allowed to sleep on the beds, and they had to sleep on the floor on Wednesday night as punishment for losing the comb. So you had a whole cell full of kids who had beds and mats at one point, not for everybody but for most of them, who were forced to sleep on the cement.

As the lawyer goes on to note, these conditions clearly violate the terms of a Court order entered back in 1993 that still governs the treatment of children at the border:

[I]n Flores, which is the class-action suit that governs the standards for the care of these children that are in U.S. custody, it clearly says that children are supposed to be kept in safe and sanitary conditions. And there is nothing sanitary about the conditions they are in. And they are not safe, because they are getting sick, and they are not being adequately supervised by the Border Patrol officers. This is a violation of the case law. In addition to that, these children are not supposed to be in a Border Patrol facility any longer than they absolutely have to, and in no event are they supposed to be there for more than seventy-two hours. And many of them were there for three and a half weeks.

And in addition to that, they are not supposed to be breaking up families. In the Ms. L case that was brought last year, when children were being routinely separated by their parents, that judge ruled that these children need to be kept with their parents, that family integrity is a constitutional right and is being violated. There were children at this facility who came across with parents and were separated from parents. There were other children at the facility who came across with other adult family members. We met almost no children who came across unaccompanied. The United States is taking children away from their family unit and reclassifying them as unaccompanied children. But they were not unaccompanied children. And some of them were separated from their parents.

As with all of the other reports, the conditions that the lawyer describes at the El Paso facility are appalling. Basically, we are treating children who have committed no crime at all worse than we treat convicted murders in prison, terrorist suspects being held in Guantanamo Bay, and Prisoners of War. What kind of civilized country allows this to happen at all never mind to continue once the reality is learned?

The Trump Administration, meanwhile, clearly does not care about these children. If they did they wouldn’t be ignoring their plight and seeking to blame President Obama and Democrats in Congress for what is going on in Court and happening on their watch. Of course, the fact that they are responding in this manner isn’t surprising, we heard exactly the same thing a year ago when the family separation policy was first brought to light. What’s clear now, though, is that despite claims that this policy had ended we now know for a fact that it has not.

There is, as I said, absolutely no excuse for what’s happening here. The fact that it is being allowed to continue is beyond appalling. Instead of doing something about it, though, Republicans spent most of last week attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over her description of the facilities where these children are being held as “concentration camps,” alleging that she was somehow trying to tie all of this into the Holocaust. While I understand the criticism, it completely misses the point. Whether you call them “concentration camps,” “internment camps,” which is my preferred term because it brings to mind the last time this country held people against their will based largely on their ethnicity, or “detention facilities,” they are quite simply unacceptable. Any decent American would be demanding that something be done about this immediately. Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any decent Americans in the Trump Administration or among the ranks of its supporters.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Borders and Immigration, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    So, on Wednesday, we received reports from children of a lice outbreak in one of the cells where there were about twenty-five children, and what they told us is that six of the children were found to have lice. And so they were given a lice shampoo, and the other children were given two combs and told to share those two combs, two lice combs, and brush their hair with the same combs, which is something you never do with a lice outbreak. And then what happened was one of the combs was lost, and Border Patrol agents got so mad that they took away the children’s blankets and mats. They weren’t allowed to sleep on the beds, and they had to sleep on the floor on Wednesday night as punishment for losing the comb. So you had a whole cell full of kids who had beds and mats at one point, not for everybody but for most of them, who were forced to sleep on the cement.

    When that admin lawyer argued that the kids don’t have a right to toothpaste and soap, a guy who’d been kidnapped had a comment on the Tweety:

    Michael Scott Moore
    ‏@MichaelSctMoore

    Somali pirates gave me toothpaste & soap.

    Both John Kelly and Jeff Sessions said they would do what they were doing as a ‘deterrent’. In other words, the exhibition of cruelty is the point.

    Instead of doing something about it, though, Republicans spent most of last week attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over her description of the facilities where these children are being held as “concentration camps,” alleging that she was somehow trying to tie all of this into the Holocaust. While I understand the criticism, it completely misses the point.

    The best lede I saw this weekend was:

    Kevin McCarthy: AOC should apologize for calling them concentration camps.
    AOC: Kevin McCarthy should apologize for them being concentration camps.

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  2. al Ameda says:

    @Teve:

    Kevin McCarthy: AOC should apologize for calling them concentration camps.
    AOC: Kevin McCarthy should apologize for them being concentration camps.

    One thing I like about AOC, is that she’s not afraid to stand in and take it right back at them. Democrats generally let this stuff go unanswered. AOC fires back.

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  3. DrDaveT says:

    Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press “You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it.”

    …at which point Chuck Todd jumped in and corrected him, saying “No sir, that’s not true. That was never true. You keep saying it, but it was never true.”

    (Yeah, I know, in my dreams…)

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  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    This nation is laying up some seriously bad karma. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”

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  5. Scott F. says:

    @Teve:

    the exhibition of cruelty is the point

    That’s it right there. The GOP base believes the cruelty is something “those people” deserve.

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  6. Teve says:
  7. Kathy says:

    1) Blaming the past administration for ongoing conditions two and half years into the present administration is just too stupid for anyone with a working neuron to believe it. The base will really have to strain its doublethink capabilities to the limit.

    2) The issue is not what these places are called. The issue is whether the conditions within are inhumane (they are), and they should be fixed without delay or discussion.

    3) Since the right wing will inevitably make this about semantics, it’s worth pointing out the term “concentration camp” in the modern era first showed up in the Boer Wars, and were set up by the British. So quit focusing on irrelevancies.

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  8. MR says:

    @Teve: the republicans have been trying to do something about this for over a month buddy—Trump asked for $4.5 for HUMANITARIAN care—and Pelosi sat on her self-righteous ass and did nothing until Trump threatened mass deportations this week–now she is willing to do something—and not because the children need it–but because she does not want the liberal voters to be kicked out of the country—so maybe Pelosi can convince congress to buy a second comb

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    here’s another opportunity for you to write a time-saving macro:

    Trump Falsely Blames Obama For X

    Every life is precious…unless it’s a brown-skinned kid at our Southern Border.

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MR:
    Ooooh…a red-hatted loon sighting.

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  11. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Credit where credit’s due, they compressed a whole lot of Dumbass into a single paragraph 😛

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  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MR:

    the republicans have been trying to do something about this for over a month buddy

    @Kathy:

    Blaming the past administration for ongoing conditions two and half years into the present administration is just too stupid for anyone with a working neuron to believe it.

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  13. EddieInCA says:

    @MR:

    the republicans have been trying to do something about this for over a month

    The Dems have been trying to do something for 20 years. The GOP needs to try harder.

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  14. Jen says:

    The most apt Tweet I’ve seen on this appalling mess was a woman who pointed out that if she treated her children the way these children are being treated, the state would take them away from her.

    This is wrong and needs to be fixed NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week, not “gee the Dems just won’t give us humanitarian aid” (I mean really, FFS, how dumb are you to buy that line…)…NOW.

    We’ll be lucky if we aren’t hauled in front of a tribunal in Brussels at this point.

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  15. SenyorDave says:

    @Jen: We’ll be lucky if we aren’t hauled in front of a tribunal in Brussels at this point.

    The modern Republican party does not recognize international law, but will tout any ruling by international entities if it directly benefits the US.

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  16. Paine says:

    Really wish this pig would keep Obama’s name out of his mouth.

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  17. SenyorDave says:

    In case people haven’t seen this, here is Sarah Fabian, lawyer for the Trump administration, trying to argue the case that they are not violating the court order. I find this hard to watch, and it pisses me off that I help to pay this woman’s salary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grPAh3USDwM

    BTW, a hearing was delayed because this woman had a dog-sitting commitment.

    One of the best commentaries on this disgusting incident is this:
    Journalist Michael Scott Moore, who was captured by Somali pirates for about 32 months, has offered a stark contrast between how he was treated while he was a hostage and how migrant children are being treated in US detention centres.

    Michael Scott Moore was captured in January 2012 in Galkayo, Somali until being liberated by Navy SEALs in September 2014.

    Moore posted a video of US Department of Justice official Sarah Fabian arguing before a court and trying to justify how not giving soap or toothpaste to the migrant children was “safe and sanitary”. In fact, she also argued that children sleeping on the concrete floors with just an aluminium foil blanket is “safe and sanitary”.

    “Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap,” Moore noted.

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  18. Jen says:

    AP is reporting that the children have been moved from the facility.

    Hopefully to somewhere they will receive the care they desperately need, but with this crew in charge who knows.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    …but because she does not want the liberal voters to be kicked out of the country…

    You do realize that illegal immigrants can’t vote? And if there is any voter fraud in this area it would be microscopic? Much like John430 on another thread, you should measure your writing more carefully, unless you want to be exposed as an idiot…

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I posted this at the previous post about Trump walking back from the sweeps he’d proposed, but I think the reminder is appropriate here, too.

    : It is right and fit to condemn the Trump administration for its argument and its treatment of children. But it’s wrong to think the problem can be cured with a presidential election. Trump will depart; the problem will not depart with him. This administration is merely the latest one to subject immigrant children to abusive conditions. It’s been 35 years since Jenny Flores was strip-searched in an adult facility. Before Sarah Fabian defended concrete floors and bright lights for President Donald Trump, she defended putting kids in solitary confinement for President Barack Obama.

    While I certainly agree that the fans of Trump’s policies are not good people, the problem has existed for a long time and does cross party lines. It’s not hard to see where the problem is; all you need is a mirror.

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  21. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Jen: Nah, they’re just moving them in the hope that if no one can see them, we’ll forget. They’re probably right, too.

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  22. Kathy says:

    Could a UN agency, or an international group, like the Red Cross, get involved and report on conditions in such facilities?

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  23. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy:

    Could a UN agency, or an international group, like the Red Cross, get involved and report on conditions in such facilities?

    This is pretty much in Amnesty International’s wheelhouse, but they don’t seem to be making nearly as much noise about it as I would have expected. They aren’t ignoring it, but it’s been months since their last press release or recommended action.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross posted a policy on detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers here, about 3 years ago.

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  24. Hal_10000 says:

    It is incredibly 2019 that we’re debating what to call these places instead of how to fix them. I wrote a post this afternoon about how stupid that debate is.

    The fact is that we need to be pouring money into the border for more people and better facilities. This problem is only going to recur. Indeed, if the climate alarmists are right, it’s going to get worse. So we’re going to need something more permanent to deal with the influx of refugees and immigrants.

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  25. David M says:

    @Hal_10000:

    This is completely correct, and exposes one of the underappreciated problems of electing President* brain worms.

    We’re wasting time and resources on stupidity, instead of actually addressing issues. The opportunity costs are enormous.

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  26. An Interested Party says:

    It is incredibly 2019 that we’re debating what to call these places instead of how to fix them.

    Correctly identifying them does lead to a path of fixing them…

    Indeed, if the climate alarmists are right, it’s going to get worse.

    I suppose you don’t completely believe they’re right, considering they’re “alarmists”? Funny how government agencies are burying studies showing the dangers of climate change are quite real…

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  27. Andrew says:

    I had trouble taking Chuck Todd seriously before this interview.
    Now he is just a hack with bad bangs, and the inability to stand up to Trump. He can talk all the facts he wants on his show/s, just not when it actually matters.

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  28. 1 says:

    Did you get permission from Rob Rogers before posting his copyright cartoon?

    ReplyReply
  29. An Interested Party says:

    Ahh, the perfect phrase for the trash in the White House: “They keep saying they were caught flat footed. That’s a bald-faced fucking lie.”

    Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any decent Americans in the Trump Administration or among the ranks of its supporters.

    Now there’s the understatement of the decade…

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party:

    You do realize that illegal immigrants can’t vote? And if there is any voter fraud in this area it would be microscopic? Much like John430 on another thread, you should measure your writing more carefully, unless you want to be exposed as an idiot…

    It’s a twenty year plan. Soros funds the immigrants, they have kids, he riled up folks on the right to demonize the kids, the kids grow up (those not shunted off to the pizza restaurants), and the kids vote Democratic in 2040.

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  31. Guarneri says:

    Maybe they should stop coming. Or maybe their parents (Snicker) should stop bringing them.

    Nah. Too logical.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @Guarneri:

    Maybe they should stop coming.

    Wow, you really are trying to Godwinize this thread, aren’t you?

    ReplyReply
  33. An Interested Party says:

    It’s a twenty year plan. Soros funds the immigrants, they have kids, he riled up folks on the right to demonize the kids, the kids grow up (those not shunted off to the pizza restaurants), and the kids vote Democratic in 2040.

    The saddest thing about this statement is that there are real fools out there who would believe it…

    Nah. Too logical.

    Oh yes…if I live in a drug war zone and/or the local economy is so screwed up I can’t make enough money to feed my family, I should stay right where I am, rather than trying to go somewhere else where I may struggle but have a better chance of making a better life for my family…nice to see you onboard the John430 Idiot Train…of course, we already knew you were a passenger, thanks for confirming it yet again…

    ReplyReply
  34. Jen says:

    @Guarneri: Perhaps Americans should put a brake on their massive appetites for illegal drugs, which is fueling much of this.

    ReplyReply

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