Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the...
MIKE BLAKE

Trump’s lies about his family-separation policy take a disturbing turn

Updated

Donald Trump sat down with Time magazine this week and repeated a familiar lie about his family-separation policy.

“But you have to understand, they were separated with President Obama. They were separated with President Bush. I didn’t change the policy, and the policy had been changed, it was – I’m the one that ended separation.”

Looking at the full transcript, Time asked the president, “Would you consider reinstating the family-separation policy?” Trump’s response meandered a bit, and included a variety of odd claims, but it also referenced Barack Obama and the Democratic administration 10 times – literally.

At one point, Trump went so far as to say he “inherited” his own family-separation policy from his predecessor.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Trump was brazenly lying.

“During the Obama administration, there was no policy in place that resulted in the systematic separation of families at the border, like we are now seeing under the Trump administration,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, explained last summer. “Our understanding is that generally parents were not prosecuted for illegal entry under President Obama. There may have been some separation if there was suspicion that the children were being trafficked or a claimed parent-child relationship did not actually exist. But nothing like the levels we are seeing today.”

Is Trump “the one that ended” the family-separation policy? Grammar aside, this is backwards: Trump is the one who created the family-separation policy. As we’ve discussed. he eventually issued an order to end his own practice, but for Trump to brag about this is like listening to an arsonist boast about putting out a fire he started.

Making matters considerably worse, the policy the president wants credit for ending may not have entirely ended.

The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg wrote in her new column on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s executive order.

Exactly one year ago on Thursday, after a national uproar, Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents. Six days later, a federal judge ordered the reunification of thousands of parents and children whom the American government had torn apart. Even though the separation policy had already been officially halted, the court issued a preliminary injunction against it. At the time, it seemed that one of the ugliest chapters of this vicious administration had ended.

But if there’s one thing this administration rarely backs down on, it’s cruelty. Family separation, it turns out, never really stopped. According to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s National Immigrants’ Rights Project, just over 700 families were separated between last June and late May. Without legal or political intervention, he fears that the number could reach 1,000 by the end of this summer.

This administration has handled this disaster about as poorly as it possibly could have, but to see this as a tragedy from the recent past is a mistake. The problem is ongoing.