- President Donald Trump repeated a false claim that Democrats are behind his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that separates families at the US-Mexico border.
- US immigration law does not require families to be split up at the border
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy in May.
- New immigration legislation introduced by House Republicans Friday does nothing to change the policy.
- Almost 2,000 children have reportedly been separated from their families at the border over six weeks under the policy.
President Donald Trump repeated a false claim in a tweet Saturday that blames Democrats for the policy of separating immigrant parents from their children upon crossing the southern border between the US and Mexico.
The “forced family breakup” policy Trump was referring to is one enforced by his own administration, specifically the zero-tolerance policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in May. Under the policy, adults who cross the border illegally are prosecuted and any children with them are placed into US custody and held in detention centres.
Sessions described the policy as designed to be a deterrant to illegal immigration, announcing “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
US immigration law does not require families to be split up at the border.
The Trump administration is also arguing that its zero-tolerance policy is a byproduct of a dysfunctional immigration system created by Democrats.
They have cited several “loopholes” in the law that they wish to close as a means to stop illegal immigration, and therefore remove the need for a zero-tolerance policy.
The first is the Flores settlement, a 1997 legal agreement struck by the Clinton administration following years of litigation on the treatment of children detained by immigration authorities.
The settlement says the government is required to release immigrant children from detention without unnecessary delay – generally within 20 days – to parents, relatives, or licensed programs.
If those options are not available for certain children, the government is required to place them in the “least restrictive” setting for their ages.
The Trump administration argues that the Flores settlement means children must be separated from their parents because they cannot be held in custody with their parents who face prosecution for crossing the border illegally.
The other “loophole” the Trump administration points to is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, or the TVPRA. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, the legislation ensures that unaccompanied children who arrive at the US-Mexico border are “exempt from prompt return to their home country,” unless those countries are Canada or Mexico.
The Trump administration has sought several amendments to the TVPRA, arguing that many unaccompanied migrant children are not actually victims of human trafficking, and therefore most of those children should be “promptly returned to their home countries.”
Almost 2,000 children have reportedly been separated from their families at the border over six weeks under the policy.
“I hate to see separation of parents and children,” Trump said. “The Democrats can come to us as they actually are in all fairness, we are talking to them, and they can change the whole border security. We need a wall. We need border security. We’ve got to get rid of catch and release.”
House Republicans introduced legislation Friday that lined up with Trump’s demands on immigration policy and sought to end the policy of separating children from their parents.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said earlier this week that executive, not legislative, action is key in ending the “barbaric” policy.
“This was an act of the administration,” Pelosi said. “They had been planning this for a while.”
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