Accuracy in Media

Reporting on President Trump’s border policies has been marked by extensive accounts of Democrats’ outrage and a stark lack of explanation why such policies exist.

As Rich Lowry of the National Review wrote, the Trump administration has not changed the rules that pertain to separating adults from their children. What has changed is more families come now than before and that many ask for asylum because, in previous administrations, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the country while their claims were assessed.

The rules are in keeping with the Flores Consent Decree of 1997, which said unaccompanied children may be held no longer than 20 days – which is long enough to adjudicate a simple immigration violation but not enough to assess an asylum claim. The Ninth Circuit later ruled that 20 days was not enough, creating a loophole in which asylum seekers and their families essentially could not be turned away.

The only “practical alternative” to current policy, Lowry wrote, is “letting family units who show up at the border live in the country for the duration,” which, he says, would “make a mockery of our laws” and create “an incentive for people to keep bringing children with them.”

Here is how the Washington Post presented the situation:

“Trump has falsely blamed the separations on a law he said was written by Democrats. But the separations instead largely stem from a ‘zero tolerance’ policy announced with fanfare last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The White House has also interpreted a 1997 legal agreement and a 2008 bipartisan human trafficking bill as requiring the separation of families – a posture not taken by the George W. Bush or Obama administrations.”

The San Francisco Chronicle published a piece that said the Trump administration “seems to be caught inside a “Twilight Zone” episode, insisting without evidence that its own policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents is somehow a long-standing law and that any blame should go to Democrats.

“These claims are violently divorced from reality, as we’ve explained previously. Alas, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seems to have missed or disregarded our fact-check.”

The New York Times reported that Trump considered but rejected the idea of zero-tolerance policies at the border that would lead to separating children from their parents. But it was revived after “a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings” last month.

“And now Mr. Trump faces the consequences,” The Times wrote. “With thousands of children detained in makeshift shelters, his spokesmen this past week had to deny accusations that administration was acting like Nazis.”

Later, it wrote that Trump “has falsely claimed that Democrats are responsible for the practice. But the kind of pictures so feared by Mr. Trump’s predecessors [of immigrant children crying at the border, such as the one that ran with this piece] could up defining a major domestic policy issue of his term.”

The Times wrote that Jeh Johnson, secretary of homeland security under Obama and thus “the point man for the Obama administration’s own struggles with illegal immigration, argued that deterrence, in and of itself is neither practical nor a long-term solution to the problem.”

It wrote of the anguish of Obama administration officials and how they came to decide on essentially the same policy after much handwringing.

“When Central American migrants, including many unaccompanied children, began surging across the border in early 2014, Mr. Obama, the antitheses of his impulsive successor, had his own characteristic reaction: He formed a multiagency team at the White House to figure out what should be done.”

There were meetings in the Situation Room to go over options. Migrants “were increasingly exploiting existing immigration laws and court rulings and using children as a way to get adults into the country, on the theory that families were being treated differently from single people.”

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