Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
- President Donald Trump resurrected a longtime talking point about former President Barack Obama’s immigration policy as ten 2020 Democratic presidential candidates sparred on the issue during a CNN-hosted debate on Wednesday evening.
- "The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014," Trump tweeted.
- Trump’s claim that Obama detained migrant children at the border is accurate, however, his second point — which he has made on several occasions — is more nuanced.
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President Donald Trump resurrected a longtime talking point about former President Barack Obama’s immigration policy, as ten 2020 Democratic presidential candidates sparred on the issue during a CNN-hosted debate on Wednesday evening.
"The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014," Trump tweeted.
Trump was referring to the US border detention centers where unaccompanied migrant children were detained and awaited judgement on their status during Obama’s tenure. Trump and his staff have often referred back to the Obama administration and say his predecessor was responsible for the cages.
"Obama built the cages," Trump said in a Telemundo interview in June. "I didn’t build them."
Images of the squalid conditions in which the children were kept in chain-linked metal cages have sparked an uproar amongst Democratic leaders and activists, particularly when the Trump administration was under intense public scrutiny for its "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
Former speechwriter to Obama, Jon Favreau, previously referred to a viral photo of the cages and admitted on Twitter that Obama’s administration had "an influx of unaccompanied minors who showed up at the border," and that it attempted to "move those children out of those shelters as fast as humanly possible and connect them with their parents" in 2014.
While Trump’s claim that Obama detained migrant children at the border is accurate, his second point — which he makes on several occasions — is more nuanced.
"He had the policy of child separation," Trump added in his tweet. "I ended it even as I realized that more families would then come to the Border!"
After the Trump administration implemented its controversial "zero tolerance" policy, thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents. The practice allowed law enforcement officers to detain and criminally prosecute adults who illegally entered the US — which would also mean any accompanied children would be separated.
While the practice became the standard in the Trump administration, it was the exception — only used when parents had criminal records or there were welfare concerns — during Obama’s tenure.
Trump’s decision to end the policy came at a time when the bipartisan outcry reached a tipping point. White House senior adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump said in August that the practice was a "low point" in the administration.
"I felt very strongly about that and I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children so I would agree with that sentiment," Ivanka said at a workforce conference. "Immigration is incredibly complex as a topic."
Trump may have officially ended the practice, but over 900 migrant children are still separated from their families due to minor criminal offenses, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times. Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan testified to Congress in July that the separations were "extraordinarily rare" and "in the interest of the child."
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