President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both tried to blame Democrats for the inhumane conditions suffered by children and families detained on the southern U.S. border during interviews that aired on Sunday.
Reports this week revealed migrant children detained in U.S. custody for weeks without sufficient food, water, or sanitation.
When pressed on “Face the Nation” about the issue, Pence called the situation “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable.”
But he quickly deflected responsibility for creating the alarming conditions, saying the situation was caused by Democrats’ “refusal” to approve the administration’s multi-billion dollar funding request to boost border enforcement and detainment shelters.
Pence similarly dodged the issue when asked about the conditions along the border on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In an interview on “Meet the Press,” meanwhile, Trump wrongly claimed that it was President Barack Obama who began the policy of separating immigrant families at the border — a claim the president continues to repeat, most recently in an interview with Telemundo that aired on June 20. Trump also asserted on Sunday that he ended this practice.
This false claim has been repeatedly debunked. According to experts, family separations have been rare under previous administrations. Under Trump, however, they have reached a staggering scale. Thousands of families were torn apart, separating parents from their children who were taken to shelters.
There is no law that requires officials to separate families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The practice of forcibly removing children from their parents and holding them in detention facilities is one the Trump administration itself came up with last year.
Trump did eventually issue an executive order in June 2018 to halt his family separation policy after intense pressure in opposition to then-Attorney Jeff Sessions’ escalation of the administration’s policy, calling for “zero-tolerance.” However, the order made no promises that families would no longer be separated at the border. Immigration advocates say it could take years to identify the thousands of children who have been separated from their families by the current administration.
“Trump’s claim is inaccurate. We rate it False,” Politifact wrote. “Separations under Trump happened systematically as a result of his administration’s policy to prosecute all adults crossing the border illegally.”
The misleading claims were made just one day after Trump announced he was delaying planned mass Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids set to take place on Sunday.
“At the request of Democrats,” he tweeted Saturday, “I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!”
Known as the “family op,” ICE and Department of Homeland Security agents planned to target up to 2,000 families in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. The objective was to round up migrants who were previously ordered to be deported.
Trump and Pence’s efforts to deflect blame also come after a Trump administration lawyer disputed in court this week whether children detained along the border were entitled to soap and toothbrushes.
The government argued that it has not violated a landmark ruling requiring migrants to be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities because the law does not specifically mention providing access to soap.
A panel of judges in California pressed the lawyer about the conditions in the detainment centers, including children sleeping on concrete floors without blankets.
Judge A. Wallace Tashima said: “It’s within everybody’s common understanding that if you don’t have a toothbrush, you don’t have soap, you don’t have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary [conditions].”