President Trump on Tuesday attempted to justify his administration’s many abusive immigration policies, including the practice of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, suggesting they were “unpleasant consequences” of crossing into the country undocumented.
“I am sorry to have to reiterate that there are serious and unpleasant consequences to crossing the Border into the United States ILLEGALLY!” he tweeted. “If there were no serious consequences, our country would be overrun with people trying to get in, and our system could not handle it!”
I am sorry to have to reiterate that there are serious and unpleasant consequences to crossing the Border into the United States ILLEGALLY! If there were no serious consequences, our country would be overrun with people trying to get in, and our system could not handle it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
It wasn’t clear to what Trump was referring specifically, however, the administration has in recent months implemented a number of harmful policies, including family separation and increasing detention of non-criminal undocumented immigrants, as it attempts to crack down on immigration more broadly.
One of the administration’s strategies for combating criticism over the family separation practice in particular has been to comment on it in the past tense, suggesting to the public that the crisis that resulted from it is over. Nearly 3,000 families were split up as a result of that practice, which Trump ended in June with an executive order. The government subsequently lost track of scores of parents, due to a lack of efficient record-keeping, and hundreds were deported without their children, after allegedly being pressured by immigration officials to sign reunification waivers.
Some 565 children remain separated from their parents as of August 16. Many have been detained for months in facilities with long histories of alleged abuse and sexual violence, neglect, or mismanagement. Immigration lawyers say those who have been reunited with their families have frequently turned up at airports with signs of emotional trauma and physical abuse.
Monday night, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Ron Vitiello told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he supported Trump’s initial decision to implement the family separation practice earlier this spring, implying that the situation had been dealt with.
“We supported what the president did, which was recalibrate where we were,” Vitiello said. “What we were trying to do, what was part of what was happening, is, effectively, if people come to the border as a family, they come into our custody … and there’s no consequence for their actions — they were essentially given a summons to appear in court, to appear in immigration court, to get their due process. In some cities, that would’ve meant years of them [living there undocumented. … That was enticing people in [other] countries [to come to the U.S. as well.]”
He continued, “We tried to find a way to stop up that leak. It was never intended for these people to be separated permanently. At the end of the process they would’ve been reunited for removal back home.”
Vitiello then blamed attempts by immigration lawyers to intervene in the separation process for “slowing things down,” and creating chaos.
“We’ve recovered from that now,” he said.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 20, 2018
Vitiello’s suggestion that the family separation process was never meant to be permanent, however, is flawed. As ThinkProgress previously reported, the government has made clear in recent months that it has no interest in working to reunite parents separated from their children and deported, stating in several court filings that it was the job of the ACLU, which is representing the families, to locate and reconnect them.
Trump’s suggestion this week that family separation and abusive policies will deter further undocumented border crossings also falls flat. As ThinkProgress reported earlier in August:
Recent data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)…shows that over the past two months, there was a decrease of nearly 7 percent in people apprehended at the border. But July 2018 numbers reflect a 57 percent increase compared to July 2017. Apprehensions of families increased more than 142 percent over the past year, with more than 9,200 undocumented family members detained in July 2018.
In total, the Washington Post noted, more families with children have crossed into the United States in the past year than any single fiscal year under the Obama administration.