In recent months, the Trump Administration has pursued an incredibly inhumane and wholly counterproductive family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. In some cases, asylum seekers are being detained and their young children are being torn away from their arms and shipped to detention facilities on the other side of the country.
Facing questions about the policy, the Trump Administration has attempted to shift blame to other parties. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that family separation is required by U.S. law. White House aide Stephen Miller has made similar remarks in the past. Finally, President Trump himself blamed ‘a law passed by the Democrats’.
These Trump Administration talking points are at best extremely misleading. At worst, these statements are outright lies to cover their immoral actions. Here, we explain what Administration officials are referring to when they blame the law and we explain why family separation is actually occurring.
What Law is the Administration Talking About?
The thing that makes pinning down the Trump Administration’s blame of the law so difficult is that the officials generally do not actually cite any specific law. There is a reason for this: no law actually requires family separation. It is simply not on the books. When pressed for details, the best the Trump Administration can come up with is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
Signed by President George W. Bush and promoted by many Republicans, this federal law offers safe harbor for victims of human trafficking and exempts many unaccompanied children from immediate return to their country of origin. But why would such a law require family separation? The answer is that it absolutely does not require family separation. The Administration is grasping at straws.
The Truth: Why the Trump Administration is to Blame for Family Separation
The reality is that the Trump Administration’s draconian zero-tolerance policy is to blame for family separation. In April of 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on immigration enforcement. The effects of the policy are straightforward: charge as many people as possible with as many immigration violations as possible.
As many immigration lawyers have noted, zero-tolerance is leading to a surge in family separation. While Congress could and probably should enact new regulations that keep families together, the Trump Administration could easily fix this problem on its own. The only action that is required is for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind his zero-tolerance policy.
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