White House cynically exploits a little girl to downplay family separation crisis they created

"Phony stories of sadness and grief."


Following massive national outcry over the Trump administration’s policies that have separated at least 2,300 children from their families at the southern boarder, the White House is pushing to delegitimize the stories of the people who have been affected by their harsh “zero tolerance” approach.

President Trump dismissed on Friday morning the trauma his policies have inflicted on thousands of immigrants as “phony stories of sadness and grief.”

“We must maintain a Strong Southern Border,” Trump tweeted. “We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”

Minutes later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders sent a tweet of her own criticizing “dems and the media” for “push[ing] their agenda” by elevating overblown stories of family separation.

Trump’s tweet alludes to — and Sanders’ tweet explicitly references — the story of a 2-year-old Honduran girl named Yanela Denise. After a photographer captured an image of Yanela sobbing, the photo became a national symbol of Trump’s inhumane treatment of immigrants. Yanela is pictured on the latest cover of Time Magazine.

It eventually emerged that Yanela was not one of the thousands of children separated from their parents. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Yanela’s father, Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, said that while the photo “broke my heart,” Yanela and her mother were not separated by border patrol agents. Instead, they were sent together to a detention center in McAllen, Texas.


Yanela told the Washington Post that, while his daughter was not separated from her mother, he doesn’t want that to detract from the reality of “human rights violations” so many other families are experiencing at the border.

“This is the case for my daughter, but it is not the case for 2,000 children that were separated from their parents,” Varela said.

In fact, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials acknowledged Friday that the number of children separated from their parents might be higher than previously believed. Though officials had previously said the Trump’s administration’s “zero tolerance” policy resulted in 2,300 kids being taken from their parents, a CBP statement released Friday indicates the number is actually above 3,000.

Trump has repeatedly insinuated that border-crossers are lying about the tragic situations they have encountered, essentially suggesting they are crisis actors rather than people seeking refuge in the United States.

On Thursday, he alleged that asylum-seekers are coached to say “passwords” to enter the United States.

During a speech on Tuesday, Trump claimed that asylum-seekers “have professional lawyers… and they tell these people exactly what to say.”


“They say, ‘say the following’ — they write it down — ‘I am being harmed in my country, my country is extremely dangerous, I fear for my life’ — ‘say that, congratulations, you’ll never be removed,’” Trump said. “This is being given to them by lawyers that are waiting for them to come up… in a way, that’s cheating.”

During that same speech, Trump suggested Democrats turn the other way as massive immigration fraud occurs because “they view that… as potential voters.”

“Some day, they are going to vote for Democrats,” Trump said of people crossing the border.

While Trump has repeatedly tried to blame Obama for the current situation at the southern border, the Obama administration did not prosecute border-crossers to the full extent of the law. The “zero tolerance” policy Trump implemented in April resulted in children being taken from their parents, who are prosecuted for the misdemeanor offense of illegal border-crossing, with the children being sent to detention facilities that are sometimes many states away from the border.

UPDATE (6/22, 2:15 p.m.) — The Republican Party is also using Yanela’s story to try and shift focus from Trump’s inhumane treatment of migrants to the media’s purported failure.