Originally Published in The New York Times
Sydney Ember and Zolan Kanno-Youngs - October 23, 2020
Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Trump sparred over family separations at the southern border, after an explosive report this week revealed the United States cannot locate the parents of more than 500 migrant children.
Asked repeatedly if he had a plan to reunite the children with their parents, Mr. Trump initially dodged the question before misleadingly saying his administration was “working on it.”
“We’re trying very hard. But a lot of these kids come out without the parents,” Mr. Trump then claimed. “They come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs.”
In fact, the Trump administration resisted providing information to court-appointed lawyers.
Mr. Trump also falsely insisted that the separated children were “so well taken care of” — an assertion that flies in the face of images and recordings that are widely available.
Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of separating children at the border to discourage migrants from trying to cross the border.
“Coyotes didn’t bring them over. Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents,” Mr. Biden said, dismissing Mr. Trump’s claim. “And it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”
Mr. Biden also referred to family separations as “criminal,” as Mr. Trump repeatedly asked Mr. Biden, “Who built the cages?”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly tried to cast former President Barack Obama as instigating the practice of family separations, but the Obama administration only broke up families under rare circumstances. The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, on the other hand, called for criminal prosecution of everyone who entered the country illegally.
Mr. Trump signed an executive order that tried to end the practice of family separation after widespread condemnation from lawmakers in both parties, immigration activists and the United Nations.