Jennifer Rubin writes in the WashPost:
In an interview on “Meet the Press,” President Trump repeated a whopper of a lie.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Separation, President Obama, I took over separation. I’m the one that put it together. What’s happened though are the cartels and all of these bad people, they’re using the kids. They’re, they’re, it’s almost like slavery.
But let’s not punish the kids more.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
No this has been happening —
Aren’t you — the kids are getting punished more.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
You’re right. And this has been happening long before I got there. What we’ve done is we’ve created, we’ve, we’ve ended separation. You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it. Now I said one thing, when I ended it I said, “Here’s what’s going to happen. More families are going to come up.” And that’s what’s happened. But they’re really coming up for the economics. But once you ended the separation. But I ended separation. I inherited separation from President Obama.
The Post’s fact-checkers back in April explained: “The Obama administration rejected a plan for family separations, according to Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s top adviser for immigration. The Trump administration operated a pilot program for family separations in the El Paso area beginning in mid-2017.” Trump’s claim that “Obama did it first” is both morally vapid and completely wrong: “The Trump administration implemented this policy by choice, exercising its discretion to prosecute some crimes over others. But no law or court ruling mandates family separations. In fact, during its first 15 months, the Trump administration released nearly 100,000 immigrants who were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, a total that includes more than 37,500 unaccompanied minors and more than 61,000 family-unit members.” In short, “The zero-tolerance approach is worlds apart from the Obama- and Bush-era policy of separating children from adults at the border only in limited circumstances, such as when officials suspected human trafficking or another kind of danger to the child or when false claims of parentage were made.”
Jake Tapper at CNN showed the right way to confront administration members on Sunday, when he went right after Vice President Pence’s misrepresentations about the dismal condition of children still held. After playing a clip of administration lawyers arguing in the 9th Circuit that there was no responsibility to provide basic necessities to children such as toothbrushes, Pence tried to claim that he didn’t know what the lawyers were saying. Tapper kept after him:
”But this is going on right now,” Tapper said, adding “This is the wealthiest nation in the world. We have money to give toothpaste and soap and blankets to these kids in this facility in El Paso County. Right now, we do.”
“Well, of course — of course we do,” Pence said.
“So why aren’t we?” Taper asked.
Pence again dodged the question with a snicker, replying “My point is — my point is, it’s all a part of the appropriations process.”
Tapper then had to cut Pence off from the lengthy digression that followed in order to force the question again.
“But I’m talking about the kids — I’m talking about the kids our custody right now,” Taper said. “Just listen to this. This is ‘The New Yorker’ citing a team of lawyers who visited a border facility.”
Pence tried to interrupt him again, but Tapper insisted “I just want to quote this.”
“The conditions the lawyers were found were shocking,” Tapper read. “Flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated. Children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, taking care of each other because of the lack of attention from guards.”
“I know you. You’re a father. You’re a man of faith. You can’t approve of that,” Tapper said.
“Well, I — I — no — no American — no American should approve of this mass influx of people coming across our border,” Pence stammered. It is overwhelming our system at the southern border.
“But how about how we’re treating these children?” Tapper asked, again, and Pence deflected, again.
“I was at the detention center in Nogales just a few short months ago. It is a heartbreaking scene,” Pence said, but then added These are people who are being exploited by human traffickers, who charge them $5,000 a person to entice them to take their vulnerable children…”
“But now these kids are in our custody,” Tapper said.
Pence continued to blame Democrats in Congress, but Tapper again reiterated “But I would say that I’m talking about the kids on our southern border right now.”
He told Pence “you have the power right now to go back to the White House and say, we need to make sure that these kids — first of all, that there are people taking care of them, so it is not 12-year-olds taking care of 3-year-olds, and, second of all, that they have soap, that they have toothbrushes, that they have combs, that we’re taking care so they don’t all get the flu.”
Pence once again tried to blame Democrats, to which Tapper replied “I think Democrats would argue that they want to do a deal with President Trump, but he hasn’t showed any inclination.”
That’s precisely how reporters need to go after Trump and his morally deficient administration. This is the Trump administration’s policy. This is the Trump administration’s doing. This is the Trump administration’s refusal to address basic humanitarian needs (while raiding the Defense Department to build a useless wall that has nothing to do with asylum seekers presenting themselves at the border).
Allowing Trump and his ilk to bluster and flat-out lie their way through interviews might be the path of least resistance when trying to cover a lot of ground. However, if Trump and his teammates are not stopped dead in their tracks, the media become a platform for deceiving voters.
Headlines that echo the president — “Trump says Obama did it first” — are equally reprehensible. (It should be “Trump falsely blames Obama for his own policy.”) Trump, Pence and the rest are accustomed to running through their ridiculous talking points (e.g. the United States has the cleanest water and air in the world) without objection on outlets such as Fox. Other media can and must do better. And when the general-election debates roll around, moderators must be willing to correct misstatements of fact. (Or follow up by asking, “But that’s not true, is it Mr. President?”)
We’re at risk of losing not only a shared set of facts but also a uniform belief that there are such things as facts. That’s straight out of the autocratic playbook — one that the media cannot facilitate.
Another part of the Trump, Pence, GOP “Big Lie” — that folks are coming “illegally.” Actually, they are coming and turning themselves in to apply for legal status which they are entitled to do under our laws and international treaties. Trump & Pence actually eliminated the only program allowing folks from the Northern Triangle to seek refugee status from outside the U.S.
What is illegal is the Trump Administration’s failure to promptly and fairly process individuals at ports of entry and returning those who have passed the first step of the process, known as “credible fear,” to Mexico where they are in danger, prevented from getting lawyers of their choice as authorized by statute, and inhibited from fairly and completely presenting their asylum cases before U.S. Immigration Judges (who themselves are not independent, fair, and impartial adjudicators since they work for Attorney General, Trump protector, and self-styled enforcement guru Bill Barr).
Oh, and how about a moratorium on Trump’s Golf Trips and Pence’s religious proselytizing trips on the public dime until every kid in Government custody has a bed, blanket, toothbrush, and a bar of soap?
No, it isn’t really about Congressional appropriations (although the GOP in Congress certainly bears a major part of the blame for Trump’s audacious violations of human rights). Congress didn’t waste money that could and should have been spent on the welfare of asylum seekers on less important things like walls, tent cities, detention, and other “built to fail” initiatives that have done little or nothing to advance the fair and effective administration of our asylum laws. Nor did Congress make the decision not to be prepared to process the asylum seekers who have been slowly and methodically heading north since before last Thanksgiving. You wouldn’t need the world’s best intelligence service to figure out the rate of flow and predict how many might need processing.
As those of us who understand immigration know, desperate people are likely to continue to leave the failed states of the Northern Triangle until the international community deals with the causes of the migration.
Everything the U.S. has done under the “maliciously incompetent” Trump Administration, from encouraging environmental degradation, to withdrawing refugee programs and aid programs, to dumb, anti-human rhetoric, to egging Mexico on to a militarized rather than a human rights response, to idiotically trying to ”enforce” our way out of a humanitarian crisis notwithstanding decades of experience and data showing it won’t work, to empowering gangs, smugglers, cartels, and corrupt government officials, to intentionally backlogging Immigration Courts while destroying established legal principles that could have led to “fast track grants” of many deserving domestic violence asylum cases, to tying up the Federal Courts with frivolous litigation, to intentional child abuse, has made the situation immeasurably and unnecessarily worse.
Yes, Trump might be able to get away with killing and abusing hundreds, perhaps thousands, in Mexico. But even this predictable bloodbath, which he hopes to keep out of sight as the U.S. media loses interest, won’t solve the problem in the long run.
Every day Trump remains in office we diminish ourselves as a nation; but, that won’t stop human migration. It will just leave us as diminished, dehumanized, shells of humanity. It’s time to “just say no to Trump and his supporters and enablers” as they seek to destroy America!