The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday perpetuated President Donald Trump’s lie that Congress is responsible for the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy of separating young, undocumented immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“If the American public wants to know who to blame for family separations, the first people they need to blame is Congress,” Thomas Homan said on “Fox & Friends,” in an interview before his retirement on Friday.
In recent weeks, Trump has falsely blamed Congress, particularly Democrats, for the border separations — despite his administration’s decision to embark on the policy, part of an aggressive anti-immigration push that officials have called a “zero tolerance” enforcement of immigration laws at the border.
Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy at a news conference on May 7.
In deeming Trump’s claim false, PolitiFact noted that the policy is entirely of his administration’s making, as there is “no law mandating that children be separated from their parents.”
When we asked for evidence of policies separating families, the White House referred us to items determining what happens to unaccompanied immigrant minors. But none of the children in question would be deemed unaccompanied if the Trump administration did not decide to prosecute their parents.
The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, for example, calls for the release of unaccompanied minors to family members or sponsors who can care for them as their immigration case is resolved. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which Trump has wrongly called “a Democrat rule,” determines that unaccompanied minors be transferred to Health and Human Services custody.
Previously, immigrants entering the country illegally as a family were rarely prosecuted and were instead held in family detention centers until they appeared in immigration court or were deported, PolitiFact noted. The Trump administration’s decision to criminally prosecute those crossing the border led to the separations.
He again falsely blamed congressional lawmakers for the crackdown.
“We are enforcing the laws that they enacted,” he said. “We’re out, doing our sworn oath, enforcing the laws that they enacted, and they’re going to vilify us for doing it.”