On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump held a roundtable discussion with California leaders, public officials, and others the White House says are directly affected by the state’s “dangerous sanctuary city laws.”
After Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s described the administration’s fight against undocumented immigrants as not just a fight, but a “war,” Trump blamed Democrats for his administration’s policy of breaking up immigrant families.
“Those are the bad laws the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing we have to break up families. They don’t want to do anything about it,” said Trump, ignoring that sanctuary cities tend to be safer than others.
Democrats, however, never had a policy this explicitly targeted towards splitting up undocumented families when they were in power.
As of early May, separating families who cross into the United States from Mexico illegally is now government policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan announced last week that the Trump administration would adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone caught crossing into the US by Border Patrol. Anyone who cross the border illegally would be referred to the Department of Justice, and subsequently prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry.
The entire premise of this harmful policy is based off of a faulty statistic, according to Vox. From July to November 2017, the Trump administration tested out a zero tolerance policy for parents in the El Paso sector of the border. The administration has used the El Paso pilot program as an example of the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies. The Department of Homeland Security claims illegal crossings of family members in El Paso dropped by 64 percent, when in reality the policy resulted in a 64 percent increase in apprehensions.
Trump’s comments appear to reflect those of his chief of staff, John Kelly, who in an interview with NPR, maintained his position of “laws are the laws” when it comes to potentially splitting up families. Kelly described the threat of separating undocumented families as a potential “deterrent” for others considering immigrating to the United States.
While acknowledging the act may seem cruel, Kelly maintained that the children will be fine.
“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever,” Kelly said. “But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
On Tuesday it was revealed what the potential “or whatever” Kelly was referring to may be. The Washington Post reported the Trump administration is preparing to hold migrant children on military bases. The bases would house minors under the age of 18 who either cross the border alone or had their parents separated from them by government officials.
During another part of Thursday’s event, Trump characterized undocumented immigrants as subhuman, saying of some who cross the border illegally, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”