President Donald Trump claimed his administration is doing a “fantastic job” at the country’s southern border days after a Justice Department lawyer argued against providing detained migrant children with toothbrushes or beds.
NBC’s Chuck Todd discussed the horrifying conditions at some of the immigrant detainment facilities in the U.S. during an interview with the president that aired Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
“I want to ask what’s going down with the ... children in these migrant camps,” Todd said. “The stories are horrible, Mr. President. You have children without their parents. You have kids taking care of kids.”
In response, Trump falsely suggested President Barack Obama enforced a similar family separation policy during his time in office.
“This has been happening long before I got there,” the president said. “What we’ve done is we’ve ... ended separation. You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it.”
In reality, the Obama administration rarely separated families at the border. The Trump administration, however, implemented in April 2018 a “zero-tolerance policy” that systematically separated children from parents who illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
A federal judge ruled the process was unconstitutional in June 2018 and ordered the government to reunite the families. Days later, Trump signed an executive order to end the “zero-tolerance policy.”
But his administration has continued to separate hundreds of migrant kids from their family members because of questionable claims of danger, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday.
Todd on Sunday failed to push back on Trump’s false statements about Obama’s policy, instead jumping directly into what migrant kids are enduring in the detention centers today.
“You’re not even schooling these kids anymore. You’ve gotten rid of all that stuff,” said Todd, adding that it appeared as though the children were being held “hostage.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, said earlier this month that the Trump administration had abruptly announced a dramatic cut in aid to detention centers that house migrant children.
Because of the budget cut, the minor detainees ― many of whom arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied by their parents ― will no longer have access to recess, education or legal services.
But Trump suggested his administration is doing the best it can.
“We’re doing a fantastic job under the circumstances,” the president told NBC News before accusing Democrats of “holding up the humanitarian aid.”
Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department attorney, argued in court last week that the federal government should not be required to provide soap, toothbrushes or beds to detained children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Attorneys for the detained children contend the government is not following the requirements of a 1997 settlement agreement in the case of Jenny Flores that requires detained migrant minors to be housed in “safe and sanitary conditions.”
Fabian suggested forcing children to sleep on cold concrete floors in cells is both “safe and sanitary” during her argument Tuesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The three-judge appellate panel that presided over the hearing appeared stunned by Fabian’s statement.
“I find it inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary,” Judge William Fletcher told her.
Asked Sunday whether he believes toothbrushes and blankets should be given to migrants kids, Vice President Mike Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper “of course” and that he “can’t speak” to what Fabian was saying.
“Look, I’ve been down there,” Pence said on “State of the Union” Sunday. “Our customs and border protection personnel are dedicated men and women. They are doing their absolute level best every day.”