MISSING CONTEXT: Obama built border cages to separate children – Trump

At a glance:
  • Claim: The Obama administration built the US border cages to separate migrant children from their families.
  • The facts: While it is true that the migrant "cages" were built during the Obama administration, it was President Donald Trump’s policy that separated hundreds of migrant children from their families.
  • Why we fact checked this: The claim was made by the US president during the 3rd presidential debate.
Complete details:

US President Donald Trump said during the 3rd and final US presidential debate on Friday, October 23 (Philippine time) that the Barack Obama administration built the “cages” or border facilities at the US-Mexico border, which were used to house migrant children and separated them from their families.

Answering a question about how he would reunite the separated migrant families, Trump shifted the blame to his predecessor and said: “But let me just tell you, they [Obama administration] built cages..... It was him. They built the cages. They did it, we changed the policy.”

This implied that the Trump administration changed the US immigration policy for the better, because Trump said that the previous administration – during which his opponent Joe Biden served as vice president – did “nothing except build the cages.”

This needs context.

While it is true that the Obama administration built the facilities referred to as “cages” by Trump, these were supposed to be temporary. This is different from Trump’s "zero-tolerance" policy to prosecute all adults illegally entering the United States, which led to the separation of hundreds of migrant children from their families.

In a 2019 video uploaded by international nonprofit organization, The Aspen Institute, Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed that while the cages were not created by Trump, they were meant to house people for only up to 72 hours before they are transferred to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Under the law, once they’re apprehended by the border patrol, within 72 hours we have to transfer unaccompanied children to HHS. And HHS then puts them into shelter and they find placement for them somewhere in the United States,” Johnson said.

Though Trump suspended the zero-tolerance policy in June 2018 following international criticism, a court document filed on October 20 by the US justice department and the American Civil Liberties Union showed that parents of 545 children separated from their families have not yet been located. 

Trump also made similar claims in the past that he “inherited” the separation policy from Obama, and that he changed it to bring people together.

American media organizations Politifact and the Associated Press debunked this before and said that the Obama administration did not have a policy to separate families arriving illegally at the border, unlike Trump. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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