Originally Published in Politico
Nick Niedzwadiek - October 23, 2020
Multiple media outlets reported this week that the federal government remains unable to find the parents of more than 500 children.
The Trump campaign’s communications director asserted on Friday that the reason some migrant families separated by the administration at the U.S. border have not been reunited is because the parents do not want their children back.
Multiple media outlets reported this week that the federal government remains unable to reach the parents of more than 500 children who were separated from their families after crossing the U.S. border, according to recent court filings. Speaking on CNN’s “New Day," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said that while “it’s a regrettable situation, certainly,” the work of unifying these families with their loved ones is more complicated for Department of Homeland Security officials than has been portrayed publicly.
“The fact is it's not as simple as you make it sound or Joe Biden made it sound on the stage 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 also repeated that claim later in the interview with host John Berman.
“You have to locate the parents and when they are located in these other countries in many cases, John, the parents do not want the children sent back to them in their home countries.”
DHS spokesman Chase Jennings said that the agency “has taken every step to facilitate reunification of these families where the parents wanted such reunification to occur.”
“The simple fact is this: after contact has been made with the parents to reunited them with their children, many parents have refused,” Jennings said in a statement.
However the preference of the parents of the hundreds of children at issue is unknown, as they have not yet been successfully contacted by the court-appointed steering committee tasked with the effort.
Migrants from Central America surged to the U.S. border during Trump's administration, as they fled gang violence and other problems that persist in their home countries and put parents who have been sent back in the position of leaving their kids in the care of the U.S. government or having them returned to the dangerous situations they sought to leave.
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden sparred over immigration during Thursday night’s debate in Nashville, Tenn., including the plight of the 545 children who remain separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration's efforts to deter illegal immigration.
Biden was visibly angry when the subject came up during the debate and said “it’s criminal” these children have been left in limbo.
“Parents were ripped — their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 of sets of those parents and those kids are alone,” Biden said. “[With] nowhere to go. Nowhere to go.”
Trump countered by criticizing the Obama administration’s immigration policy, including the construction of detention facilities for undocumented immigrants, and repeatedly pressing Biden to answer “Who made the cages?”
Trump also defended his administration’s treatment of child migrants, saying “they are so well taken care of.”
Biden distanced himself from the president he served under, saying Barack Obama “made a mistake” for how he handled deporations and family detentions during his tenure.
“We made a mistake. It took too long to get it right,” Biden said during the debate.