Originally Published in The Hill
Jordan Williams - October 23, 2020
The Trump campaign’s top spokesperson said Friday that the reason some migrant families separated at the U.S. border have not been reunited is that the parents do not want the children sent back to their home countries.
In an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh was asked if President Trump regrets a policy that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) losing track of 545 migrant children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has not been able to find the parents of some of the children.
Murtaugh told “New Day” host John Berman that it was a “regrettable situation,” adding that “we should not lay out the welcome mat and encourage people” to cross the border from Mexico.
“The fact is it’s not as simple as you make it sound or as Joe Biden made it sound on the debate last night to locate the parents who are in other countries,” Murtaugh said. “And when they do locate them, it has been DHS’ experience that in many cases, the parents do not want the children returned.”
Murtaugh repeated the claim in the interview when Berman asked if the president was involved with reuniting the children with their parents.
“You have to locate the parents and when they do locate them in those other countries ... in many cases John, the parents do not want the children sent back to them in their home countries.”
DHS press secretary Chase Jennings said earlier this week that the notion that the parents don’t want their children back is “dispelled,” adding that the agency has “taken every step to facilitate the reunification of these families where the parents wanted such unification to occur.”
“In the current litigation for example, out of the parents of 485 children whom Plaintiffs' counsel has been able to contact, they’ve yet to identify a single family that wants their child reunited with them in their country of origin,” Jennings said in a statement shared on Twitter. “The result is that the children remain in the U.S. while the parents remain in their home country.”
During the final presidential debate on Thursday, Biden blasted the family separation policy that resulted in DHS losing track of 545 separated children, calling it “criminal” as he and Trump sparred over immigration policy.
Biden fact-checked Trump, who initially claimed that the children were brought to the U.S. by “coyotes,” or human smugglers.
"What happened? Their kids were ripped from their ams and separated and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go, nowhere to go. It's criminal," Biden said.
Trump responded by accusing the Obama administration of beginning the family separation policy and building the facilities to detain migrant children. He touted the conditions at immigration detention centers.
"They are so well taken care of, they're in facilities that are so clean. But just ask one question, who built the cages?" Trump asked.