Michelle Obama assailed President Donald Trump on Monday for ripping migrant children from their parents and throwing them into cages, picking up on a frequent and distorted point made widely by Democrats.
She’s right that Trump’s now-suspended policy at the U.S.-Mexico border separated thousands of children from their families in ways that had not been done before. But what she did not say is that the very same ‘cages’ were built and used in her husband’s administration, for the same purpose of holding migrant kids temporarily.
In her remarks Monday night during her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, the former first lady bemoaned the lack of empathy among people, saying it’s not a world she wants her daughters to see.
‘They see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain. They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op,’ she said.
But an Associated Press fact check points out that Trump used facilities that were built during the Obama-Biden administration to house children at the border. They are chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants were temporarily housed, separated by sex and age.
At the height of the controversy over Trump´s zero-tolerance policy at the border, photos that circulated online of children in the enclosures generated great anger. But those photos – by The Associated Press – were taken in 2014 and depicted some of the thousands of unaccompanied children held by President Barack Obama.
When that fact came to light, some Democrats and activists who had tweeted the photos deleted their tweets. But prominent Democrats have continued to cite cages for children as a distinctive cruelty of Trump.
At the time the 2014 photos went viral in May 2018, Trump accused Democrats of trying to make him ‘look bad’ with the images.
‘They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires,’ the president charged in a tweet.
The former first lady was correct, however, in addressing the removal of children from parents at the border.
The Obama administration separated migrant children from families under certain limited circumstances, like when the child´s safety appeared at risk or when the parent had a serious criminal history.
But family separations as a matter of routine came about because of Trump´s ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement policy, which he eventually suspended because of the uproar. Obama had no such policy.