Trump says he 'brought the families together' after being confronted in an interview about migrant family separations

donald trumpPresident Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in Washington.Associated Press/Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump took credit in a Telemundo interview for bringing migrant "families together," and falsely blamed former President Barack Obama for separating them.
  • Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart pressed Trump on the thousands of migrant children separated under the "zero tolerance" policy last spring, but Trump insisted he had not separated families.
  • The Trump administration implemented its "zero tolerance" policy in April 2018, which separated an unknown number of migrant parents from their children.
  • The Obama administration did not have a policy separating migrant families.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump incorrectly pinned blame for his administration's family separations on former President Barack Obama and insisted he was actually the one who "brought the families together" in a Telemundo interview that aired Thursday.

The interview, billed as Trump's first with a Spanish-language network, covered a number of immigration issues, including his handling of the young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers, Central American asylum-seekers, and last year's family separations.

Trump reacted defensively when the anchor, José Díaz-Balart, pressed him on the "zero tolerance" policy implemented last spring, which forcibly separated thousands of migrant children from their parents.

"Let me just explain something," Trump began. "When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn't have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I'm the one that put them together. Now I said something when I did that: 'Watch, many more people will come up,' and that's what happened."

Obama did not have a policy to separate migrant children from families - current and former Homeland Security officials have conceded that separations were rare under the Obama administration, and mostly only occurred if a child's safety was perceived to be at risk.

Read more: Teens taking care of toddlers, children eating uncooked food, and an outbreak of the flu: Lawyers report of dire conditions at a Texas Border Patrol station where migrant children are being held

 

The Trump administration, however, implemented its "zero tolerance" policy in April 2018, which ordered that adults crossing the border illegally be criminally prosecuted for the misdemeanor. Since most of the migrants crossing the border arrived as part of families, the mass prosecutions resulted in thousands of adults being separated from the children traveling with them.

Under immense public backlash, Trump issued an executive order in June 2018 halting the family separations, and a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite all those it had separated.

It is still unknown how many families the Trump administration ultimately separated, and how many must still be reunited.

Though the federal government estimated that some 2,700 children were separated, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services told reporters in January that there were likely thousands more separations than previously known. 

But Trump told Telemundo he "hated the separation policy," and that "zero tolerance" merely meant he was "going to be tough on the border."

"I'm the one that changed the plan. I inherited separation, and I changed the plan, and I brought people together," Trump inaccurately said. "I put them together. Just remember that. I put them together."

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