- REUTERS/Carlos Barria
- President Donald Trump falsely blamed his administration’s migrant family separation policy on President Barack Obama, while also defending the policy as an effective measure to deter migrants arriving on the southern border.
- Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that without the threat of family separation, migrant families are treating their often perilous journey to the US “like a picnic” or a trip to Disneyland.
- But the president said his administration is “not looking to” bring back the family separation policy, despite recent reports that Trump urged his aides to re-instate it.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
President Donald Trump simultaneously distanced himself from his administration’s migrant family separation policy – falsely blaming the practice on former President Barack Obama – and argued that the policy is an effective deterrent to migration.
Trump argued during a Tuesday press conference that Central Americans crossing the US-Mexico border are treating their often perilous journey to the US like a trip to “Disneyland.”
“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children,” Trump said as a gaggle of reporters were herded out of the Oval Office.
Trump then quickly shifted to defending the policy as a useful measure to discourage undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from coming to the US.
“And I’ll tell you something: once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming,” Trump said. “They’re coming like it’s a picnic like, ‘let’s go to Disneyland.'”
Trump added that his administration is “not looking to” bring back the family separation policy, despite recent reports that the president urged his aides to re-instate the policy months after he signed an executive order banning the practice following widespread public outcry.
Contrary to the president’s claims, the Obama administration did not have a widespread family separation policy like the Trump administration, but detained families together in controversial family detention centers. A 2015 court order made it illegal to detain all children for longer than 20 days which led to a limited number of separations, according to experts.
The Obama administration also released a portion of these families, which continued to be monitored by law enforcement – a practice Trump has denounced as “catch and release.” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security under Obama, called family detention “an effective deterrent” in 2014.
NEW: "We're not looking to do that," President Trump tells ABC News' @jonkarl when asked if he’s considering reinstating the family separation policy at the border.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 9, 2019
The Trump administration instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy of prosecuting nearly all adults, including parents, who illegally cross the border, and separating them from their children. Some asylum-seeking families were also separated.
And government inspectors announced that thousands more migrant children may have been separated from their families by the Trump administration beginning in 2017, but numbers were unclear because the involved agencies did not have a system in place to track the children.
Government officials told a federal court last week that it could take up to two years to identify many of the children who were separated under the policy last year and are no longer in government custody.