President Donald Trump on Saturday repeated his false assertion that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families apprehended at the border, sticking to a weekslong refusal to publicly accept responsibility for a widely condemned practice that has become a symbol of his crackdown on illegal immigration.
“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” Trump said in a morning post on Twitter.
It came the day after his administration said that it had taken nearly 2,000 children away from their parents in a six-week period ending last month, as part of a new zero tolerance policy that refers for criminal prosecution all immigrants apprehended crossing the border without authorization.
Trump has steadfastly tried to deflect blame for the separation of children from their parents, consistently dissembling about why it is occurring. His comments reflect how politically poisonous the issue has become, as photographs and news articles circulate about the effects of the practice.
“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump told reporters Friday. “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”
In fact, there is no law that requires families to be separated at the border. There is a law against “improper entry” at the border, as well as a consent decree known as the Flores settlement that limits to 20 days the amount of time migrant children may be held in immigration detention, which a federal judge ruled in 2016 also applies to families. A 2008 anti-trafficking statute — signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush — also requires that certain unaccompanied alien minors be transferred out of immigration detention in 72 hours. None of those laws or precedents mean that children must be taken away from their parents.
It is the Trump administration’s decision this year to prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals that has forced the breakup of families; the children are removed when the parents are taken into federal custody.