First Lady Melania Trump has reportedly downplayed the Trump administration’s policy of segregating immigrant families in a conversation secretly taped by her former friend and senior advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff in the summer of 2018.
In the tape received by CNN, it suggests that the Obama administration carried out family segregations on a comparable scale – which is wrong.
“Give me a bloody break,” she said to Wolkoff, who wrote a book about their decades-long relationship. Melania and me. “Did you say something when Obama did that?”
Some families who crossed the border were separated under the Obama administration. However, the practice has been used in very limited circumstances, such as when officials suspected adults of child trafficking or other fraud. There is no evidence that the Obama administration has segregated families in numbers close to the more than 5,000 separated under Trump. There was no policy of systematic separation of families like the Trump administration did.
The first lady also suggests in the recording that the media treated her as if she was responsible for politics and refused to write a story about her attempt to reunite one of the affected children with their mother.
“They say I am complicit. I’m just like him, I support him. I don’t say enough, I don’t do enough where I am, ”she said. “I tried to reunite the child with the mother. I didn’t stand a chance – have to go through the process and the law. “
In another recording, also obtained from CNN, she claims that many of the migrant families arriving at the southern border have been trained on how to fraudulently obtain asylum.
“Many mothers and children learn how to do it. They go over and say, “Oh, we’re getting killed by a gang member, we’re going, you know, it’s so dangerous,” Trump said. “So you can stay here.”
“They could easily stay in Mexico, but they don’t want to stay in Mexico because Mexico doesn’t care about them the way America does,” she added.
However, there is no evidence that asylum fraud is widespread. The Trump administration has often cited the national asylum grant rate, which is currently around 12 percent, to argue that most asylum applications are illegal, but that’s insincere: denial of asylum says nothing about the credibility of one’s underlying account Asylum seeker. Rather, it simply means that an immigration judge has determined that he is not qualified for the legally required degree of protection.
The first lady also claims on the record that migrant children are treated well in the detention centers where they are housed, judging by their response on arrival. However, courts and media reports have repeatedly stated otherwise, describing cases of children being forced to sleep on concrete floors with nothing but Mylar blankets to keep them warm in cells nicknamed “Hieleras” – Spanish for “ice boxes” , and who weren’t given it yourself basic hygiene products like toothbrushes and soap.
“The kids say, ‘Wow, I’ll have my own bed? Will i sleep on the bed? I will have a closet for my clothes? “It’s so sad to hear that, but they didn’t have that in their own countries, they sleep on the floor,” Trump said on the tape. “You will be well looked after there. But you know, yes, they are not with the parents, it’s sad. But if they come here alone or with coyotes, or illegally, you have to do something. “
Family breakups were largely a product of Trump’s zero tolerance policies
The Trump administration separated parents from their children as a result of a zero-tolerance policy designed to prevent immigrants from crossing the border without permission. Beginning in mid-2017, the federal government in El Paso, Texas ran a pilot program to file criminal charges against people who crossed the border without permission, including parents with underage children – although many of them wanted to seek asylum in the United States.
The parents were taken into immigration custody pending deportation proceedings. Their children, meanwhile, have been transferred to separate facilities of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and, in some cases, have been released to other family members in the United States or nursing homes. (Previous administrations would have simply released the families entirely from custody in most cases.)
The Trump administration formalized the policy in May 2018. At least 5,000 families were separated before a California federal court ordered the federal government to reunite the affected families and end the policy in June 2018.
However, the federal government has failed to link the children to their parents in their databases, making the reunification process difficult, especially in the hundreds of cases of children under 5, including a child who was only four months old.
Unlike the Trump administration, the Obama administration did not have a policy of family separation, but tried to keep families together on a large scale and deport them as soon as possible during the 2014 migrant crisis. Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Obama administration’s Home Affairs Council, told the New York Times in 2018 that the administration briefly considered separating the family but was quick to drop the idea.
“We thought about it for five minutes and decided it was a bad idea,” she told the Times. “The moral was clear – this is not who we are.”
Senior Trump administration officials, including former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have repeatedly denied that they have a policy of family segregation. Nielsen told Congress in December 2018 that the government “never had a policy of family separation”. It was later revealed that she had, in fact, signed a memo giving the practice the go-ahead, clarifying that DHS “may lawfully order the separation of parents or guardians and minors held in immigration custody, with it the parents or legal guardians can be prosecuted. ”
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has tried to implement what immigrant lawyers are calling a new type of family separation. This time around, it is pressuring parents already incarcerated in the US to voluntarily separate from their children by presenting them with what the government has called the “binary choice”. Either allow their children to be placed with relatives or a foster family in the U.S. while the parents remain incarcerated, or stay together as a family in indefinite detention and risk contracting the coronavirus.
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