‘They are coming like it’s a picnic, like “let’s go to Disney Land”…’
(AFP) President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he will not restart the controversial practice of separating children from families of undocumented migrants—but then he praised the tactic as being effective.
“We’re not looking to do it,” he told reporters at the White House.
The separation policy meant illegal immigrant adults and minors being held at separate detention centers while awaiting a legal hearing on asylum or deportation
Trump said that the short-lived practice—intended to mitigate the “catch-and-release” loophole from a requirement that minors be held no longer than 20 days—had successfully slowed the influx of people crossing the U.S.–Mexican border.
“I’ll tell you something: once you don’t have it, that’s why you have many more people coming. They are coming like it’s a picnic, like ‘let’s go to Disney Land,'” Trump said of migrants and asylum seekers.
Trump’s battle to prevent illegal immigration has turned into the biggest political fight in the country ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The Republican is pushing hard for construction of hundreds of miles of new border walls. He says that the United States is “full” and cannot take any more migrants or even people fleeing violence in Central America.
Trump claimed that he never wanted children to be taken away from their parents when they crossed the border illegally or sought asylum. Instead he blamed this on his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
Obama’s unilateral decision not to enforce certain aspects of the federal immigration law resulted in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals policy being put into effect, through which immigrants brought as children—including unaccompanied minors—benefited from special status.
The resulting influx of children who had made the dangerous journey across the border alone led to many being held in detention centers while guardians were identified. Because the residency status of the guardians also was not taken into account, they also benefited from the special status.
Trump said the media had deceptively attempted to pass off images from the Obama era detentions while covering his “zero-tolerance” policy, which lasted only a few weeks in the spring of 2018.
“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. Those cages that were shown—I think they were very inappropriate—were by President Obama’s administration, not by Trump. President Obama had child separation,” Trump said.
“You know it. We all know it. I’m the one who stopped it,” he said.
Although Trump made the decision to end the policy in June 2018, activist judges in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals served a series of unprecedented injunctions, appropriating, for all intents and purposes, the role of commander-in-chief that is customarily—and constitutionally—designated to the president.
Media claimed thousands of children had been removed and placed in temporary accommodations, leading to harrowing images and reports of administrative chaos in which parents were later unable to find their children.
However, many of the media attacks were later debunked, including a prominent Time magazine image of a crying girl. Although the magazine initially suggested the girl had been separated from her family, that was proven false.
Time justified using the photo in a sensationalist cover graphic by saying it had symbolic meaning.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
© Agence France-Presse