President Donald Trump can be credited with persistence as he once again attempted to shift blame for his disastrous family separation policy onto President Barack Obama. Ever since the backlash began over scenes of children taken from their parents and the reports of multiple children dying and allegations of abuse, the Trump administration tried to get out from under the repercussions of their immigration policy change at the southern border.
In what was billed as his first Spanish language network interview, Trump told Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart he brought families together while Obama separated families.
"I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together."
When Díaz-Balart told the President he had been "very tough on immigrants," Trump countered:
"When you say that, you mean illegal immigrants. I’ve been very good to immigrants."
The President also boasted that his support among Latinos was rising because:
"Hispanics want toughness at the border."
In response, Díaz-Balart asked:
"So, the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, was it a mistake?"
"It’s not a mistake. We want to have strong borders."
The President then ignored questions about children still separated from their parents due to his administration having no plan in place to reunify families as they separated them. Instead, Trump launched into his standard defense of blaming Obama.
"When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy, I didn’t have it. President Obama is the one that built those prison cells."
Watch the full interview here.
In his Telemundo interview, Trump stated:
"I inherited separation and I changed the plan and I brought people together."
But then claimed family separations served as a deterrent to migrants. The President added:
"But I hated to have the separation policy."
Trump then redefined his zero tolerance policy:
"What 'zero tolerance' means to me is we’re going to be tough on the border."
"That includes separating parents from children if that’s what it takes?"
"No, no, no. I put them together. Just remember that, I put them together."
In April 2018, then President Donald Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo notifying all Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors that a zero tolerance policy would be enacted for immigrants who entered the United States at the southern border, whether seeking asylum or not. This action removed prosecutorial discretion requiring all immigrants to be detained for trial on the misdemeanor crime of illegal entry into the United States despite the fact entering to request asylum is not a crime.
Because prosecutors could no longer transfer cases to civil court, all immigrants would need to be jailed. Since federal law prohibited long term incarceration of children, the new Trump administration DoJ guidance required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enact a family separation policy at the southern border.
Later testimony before Congress revealed the Trump administration knew this would be the result of their new policy. But after facing backlash, President Trump, his administration and supporters attempted to shift blame to President Barack Obama.
Many stopped trying to make those false claims after their damning Congressional testimony revealed the architects of the Trump policy, like Stephen Miller, knew family separation would be the result of the new Trump immigration policy and called it a benefit rather than a detriment during the planning stage. However Trump continued to claim his policy was not what it was.
Trump also continued to point fingers at President Obama, despite being corrected multiple times with facts about the unaccompanied minors detained during the Obama administration. Unaccompanied minors are those that arrive without families, meaning no family separation is done.
Both the DoJ and DHS heads that enacted Trump's policy, Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen lost their positions in the Trump administration after poor showings before congressional panels or in the media.
In preparation for his 2020 presidential campaign, the President is reaching out to news outlets and markets he shunned since his inauguration.
Update: Trump sat down with Time mag in Oval Office on Monday and now doing Telemundo on Thurs.… https://t.co/X3pkgih5bV— Michael Calderone (@Michael Calderone)1560897367.0
And now Trump heading to "Meet the Press" for first NBC sitdown in more than two years https://t.co/NQcPE9RaQM— Michael Calderone (@Michael Calderone)1561058348.0
Trump seems to be broadening his media reach. Time, ABC, Telemundo just this week. That’s a good thing imo.— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl)1560897509.0
But his easily disproven claims do not appear to play as well outside his usual safe space at Fox News.
@mlcalderone If ABC debacle and week of damage control any indicator, Trump will struggle in interviews with real j… https://t.co/u98BAH1ahA— Allan Schlosser (@Allan Schlosser)1560898885.0
How the President will handle the pushback, or how the news media he routinely calls "fake news" and the "enemy of the people" will handle Trump remains to be seen.
To learn more about the human cost of the family separation policy, Daniel Blue Tyx wrote Angry Tías: Cruelty and Compassion on the U.S.-Mexico Border, available here.
"During the summer of 2018, the border community of McAllen, Texas, was ground zero for the family separation crisis. McAllen is home to the Ursula Processing Center-known as la perrera, or the dog pound, for the cage-like structures holding adults and children alike-as well as the federal courthouse where scores of Central American asylum seekers are prosecuted in mass trials under the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy."