When questioned by interviewers about migrant children detained at the southern border, President Donald Trump has tried to steer the blame toward the previous administration, saying former President Barack Obama initiated the policy of separating those children from their caregivers, even though fact checkers have consistently found that claim to be false.
During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," which aired Sunday, Trump told host Chuck Todd that he "inherited separation from President Obama" and that "I was the one that ended it."
"When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn't have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I'm the one that put them together," he told Telemundo's Josť DŪaz Balart in an interview that aired Thursday.
And on Thursday he told Time magazine that "I inherited separation" and "Iím the one that put the families back together."
But, according to FactCheck.org, "previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children." It was after the Trump administration announced its "zero-tolerance" immigration policy in April 2018, in which everyone who illegally entered the U.S. was referred for criminal prosecution, that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents.
"We donít want to separate families, but we donít want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly," said then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions when the policy was announced. "The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions."
In a May 2018 interview, then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told NPR a "big name of the game is deterrence" in stopping illegal immigration, and that family separations "would be a tough deterrent."
Migrant apprehensions and deportations during Obama's presidency outpaced those of Trump's first years according to Department of Homeland Security data and a report published Friday by Axios. But PolitiFact found that family separations were rare during the Obama and Bush administrations and became "systematic" under Trump's zero-tolerance policy.
In 2014, there was a surge in the number of migrant children arriving at the border. The vast majority were unaccompanied, and thousands were detained in makeshift detention centers that included overcrowded chain-link fence cages where they were forced to sleep on the floor with space blankets.