President Donald Trump on Tuesday simultaneously distanced himself from his administration’s “zero tolerance” migrant family separation policy, falsely blaming the cruel and widely condemned practice on former President Barack Obama, and argued that the policy is an effective deterrent to migration.
Trump told reporters he had no plans to reinstate his administration’s earlier policy of systematically separating families that are apprehended at the border, but in the same breath, he appeared to praise the policy, saying “once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming.”
“And I’ll tell you something: once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming,” Trump said. “They’re coming like it’s a picnic like, ‘let’s go to Disneyland.'”
He also railed against Obama, falsely blaming him for the policy.
“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children,” Trump claimed.
“President Obama separated children, I was the one who changed it,” he again repeated the false claim.
NEW: “We’re not looking to do that,” President Trump tells ABC News’ @jonkarl when asked if he’s considering reinstating the family separation policy at the border.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 9, 2019
Trump’s false claim that child separations were carried out by the Obama administration has been frequently debunked by fact-checkers.
“The Obama administration did not do that, no. We did not separate children from their parents,” former Obama domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz told NPR in May 2018. “This is a new decision, a policy decision put in place by the attorney general,” which Muñoz said “puts us in league with the most brutal regimes in the world’s history.”
It was then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions who instituted the so-called zero tolerance policy at the southern border in April 2018, which resulted in children being separated from their parents who were taken into custody for criminal prosecution.
A federal judge allowed a lawsuit challenging the policy last June and Trump issued an executive order ending it.
Still, as NPR’s Domenico Montanaro wrote last year, the Trump administration has been unwilling to take the blame for the policy of family separations because of the political optics.