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.