Separation of Families at the Border is Not Unique to the Trump Administration
Written by Kevin Catapano on 04/09/2019
President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy has been ruthlessly and dishonestly excoriated by the media and their leftist political counterparts for the better part of the previous three years. As is frequently the case, the media is doing yeomen’s work for the Democratic Party and, in doing so, have entirely mislead the American people.
This practice of separating illegal immigrant families detained at the border is not an evil manifestation of the president’s alleged disdain for immigrants, but rather a policy enforced for decades prior, including under President Barack Obama.
The Flores Settlement Agreement, reached in 1997, mandated that the federal government release unaccompanied children from immigration detention within twenty days and place them in a minimally restrictive setting. It is important to note that accompanied children—those who immigrated illegally with their parents—were not explicitly mentioned in Flores. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that accompanied children could not be detained in accordance with the terms of the settlement. This meant, of course, that the government had to either release the entire family, or separate the children from their parents.
The notion that President Trump nefariously spawned this policy is blatantly incorrect as it was in full effect under President Bill Clinton and throughout the subsequent administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, thanks, in major part, to the Ninth District Court of Appeals—which is no ally of the Republican Party.
There is a subset of the left that maintains family separations never occurred under President Obama, but the general consensus tends to be that they were just limited in frequency. According to Jeh Johnson, DHS secretary under President Obama, “There may have been some exigent situation, some emergency,” adding, “I can’t say it never happened.” Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, was far more candid, stating that the Obama administration, in fact, “did separate some families,” although it made an effort to detain families together.
Of course, President Obama was unable to do so because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that children were to be released from detention within twenty days of apprehension. Faced with the choice of releasing the entire family into the United States or separating the children, President Obama chose the former.
According to Brown, “At that point, family detention dwindled and most families were released into the US, either on their own with a notice to appear or under Alternatives to Detention, which could be an ankle bracelet or a supervised monitoring provision where they had to check in with ICE regularly until their immigration court hearing.”
For those connecting the dots, this is called catch and release, a policy born under the Bush administration in which illegal immigrants are detained and subsequently released into the U.S. to await a court date that they often skip without a doctor’s note.
President Trump frequently criticized his predecessors for perpetuating catch and release, exclaiming as a candidate in 2016, “Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came.”
That’s the difference between President Trump and President Obama in this specific context of immigration policy; and it’s not that the former is a cruel and heartless racist as the media purports. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that accompanied illegal immigrant children, by law, have to be separated from their families, otherwise the opposing alternative is to release the entire family unaccompanied into America—the equivalent of law enforcement apprehending a suspect whom they witnessed committing the crime and then releasing that suspect in the hopes of reuniting for a trial.
Obviously this is not the manner in which the justice system operates, as American suspects are detained in jails while awaiting trial. The issue here is not with the justice system, but with the Obama administration’s failure to apply protocol uniformly to illegal aliens. Far worse, however, is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ legal binding of the hands of U.S. border control officials, while simultaneously refusing to handcuff the actual criminals.
So, contrary to that which the media purports, President Trump is not responsible for creating this policy of family separation. His administration is merely working to secure the safety of American citizens and the enforcement of our sovereign borders in accordance with existing legislation forwarded by a left-leaning court.