Fact Check: Construction on a new border wall?

CNN's Jake Tapper looks at President Trump's claim that the US is already building his proposed border wall. Read more at FactCheck.org.

Posted: Jun 10, 2018 1:25 PM
Updated: Jun 10, 2018 1:27 PM

It's hard to defend the indefensible. On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, explaining why the Trump administration is separating migrant families at the border. "If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them," Sessions said. "We've got to get this message out. You're not given immunity."

The problem for Sessions is that the message is out about this policy, and Americans are not buying it. Attempting to justify splitting up families, Sessions offered several policy explanations about why it was necessary. But his rationale for family separations doesn't hold up. The practice is as inhumane as it sounds.

Under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, people who cross the southern border illegally will now be criminally prosecuted. Past administrations sometimes prosecuted unauthorized border crossers, but it has never been uniform policy. Because children cannot be held in immigration detention for long periods, the Trump administration has taken to jailing migrant parents and then sending their children into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. While President Barack Obama also struggled to deal with child migrants at the border, separating children from their parents was not a policy that his administration followed.

Explaining the policy to a skeptical Hewitt, Sessions likened it to how US courts treat children. "Every time somebody, Hugh, gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they're separated from their children," Sessions said. This comparison is a stretch. Children in the United States whose parents get in trouble with the law are typically assigned social workers, case workers and lawyers to monitor their progress through foster care and/or social service agencies.

Lawbreaking US citizens are allowed regular communication with their children.

In contrast, unauthorized migrant parents and children are not always given such privileges or protections. Unlike citizens, immigrants in immigration court do not have the right to a court-appointed lawyer. Moreover, it is difficult for migrant parents and children to obtain legal representation because detention facilities are often in remote locations. And immigrant detention facilities are notoriously lacking in transparency. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, was recently denied access to a Texas detention center to check on how migrant children were being treated.

In their discussion, Sessions told Hewitt, "If you come to the country, you should come through, first, through the port of entry and make a claim of asylum if you have a legitimate asylum claim." The attorney general added that people shouldn't try to get across the border at another location and not expect to be deported. But people who are coming to US ports of entry and attempting to request asylum are being turned away. Texas Monthly reports that some Border Patrol agents are telling asylum seekers that they cannot cross the border because US holding cells are at capacity. How does Sessions expect people with a claim for asylum to exercise that legal right?

More troubling is Sessions' assertion that migrant children who are separated from their parents are "for the most part ... well taken care of." He says so despite admitting he has not visited any of the facilities where migrant children are housed.

Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, children are being kept in wire-link fence enclosures, like livestock. According to NBC News, hundreds of migrant children taken from their parents are stuck at overcrowded border stations. No wonder everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the UN human rights office opposes this practice.

Sessions and other administration officials have pointed to a deterrence strategy as justifying family separations. Yet there is scant evidence that such a strategy works. The Trump administration says that its new policy reduced border crossings 64% in an El Paso, Texas, sector pilot program; in fact, the crossings actually increased there by 64%, according to an investigation of US Customs and Border Protection data by Vox.

As the head of the Department of Justice, Sessions is the top lawyer of the US government. So it's striking that, in his talk with Hewitt, he did not cite a legal basis for splitting up families. That's because there isn't one. President Donald Trump has tried to blame this policy on a "horrible law" passed by Democrats -- but the website Politifact judged these claims to be false.

To his credit, Hewitt pressed Sessions on the family separations, asking the attorney general if he could imagine his grandchildren being taken from their parents. Sessions responded that the United States "can't be a total guarantor that every parent who comes to this country unlawfully with a child is guaranteed ... that they will be able to have their hand on that child the entire time. That's just not the way it works." That Sessions was unwilling to acknowledge the basic human rights of children speaks volumes. Consider that those who suffer the most from family separations are the youngest, most innocent people involved -- children who likely had no say in coming to the United States.

Sadly, this is life for vulnerable immigrants under Trump, whether they are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals grantees living under a cloud of anxiety about their future, the families of undocumented workers arrested in mass immigration raids, or potential asylum seekers.

Trump and his attorney general own the cruelty of family separations. It cannot be justified on policy or legal grounds -- and each day it continues is a stain on our nation's legacy.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 750432

Reported Deaths: 13764
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031991782
Lake556411007
Allen41662691
St. Joseph36974564
Hamilton36561417
Elkhart29390459
Tippecanoe22886225
Vanderburgh22549400
Porter19348325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17608317
Clark13206193
Madison13139344
Vigo12608253
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Monroe12188175
Delaware10954198
Howard10285225
Kosciusko9619119
Hancock8562145
Bartholomew8164157
Warrick7856156
Floyd7781180
Grant7232179
Wayne7160201
Boone6939103
Morgan6746141
Dubois6214118
Marshall6208116
Cass6000109
Dearborn589578
Henry5895109
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Shelby500896
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444593
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Steuben399759
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White331553
Daviess3033100
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Scott270156
Clay266448
Washington245234
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234431
Starke227958
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Sullivan214343
Owen211658
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Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
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Franklin170335
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Parke149316
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Newton113736
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101414
Martin91615
Warren83815
Switzerland8118
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108146

Reported Deaths: 20122
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1286421460
Cuyahoga1157382208
Hamilton813551248
Montgomery525311041
Summit48395999
Lucas43343818
Butler38951604
Stark33318929
Lorain25658504
Warren24580303
Mahoning22355603
Lake21166387
Clermont20111253
Delaware18841135
Licking16660222
Fairfield16570204
Trumbull16537482
Medina15603271
Greene15272247
Clark14233306
Wood13287198
Portage13242214
Allen11910239
Richland11601211
Miami10843224
Wayne9130222
Columbiana9029230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8658122
Tuscarawas8643248
Marion8641138
Erie8056164
Ashtabula7147179
Hancock6996132
Ross6943161
Geauga6834150
Scioto6534105
Belmont6155174
Union584549
Lawrence5726102
Jefferson5675158
Huron5544122
Sandusky5439125
Darke5415129
Seneca5347126
Washington5318109
Athens523660
Auglaize501887
Mercer487385
Shelby476595
Knox4570112
Madison444065
Ashland435597
Putnam4336103
Defiance432298
Fulton432072
Crawford4036110
Brown402461
Logan387577
Preble3848104
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359665
Williams348078
Champaign344258
Guernsey324853
Jackson318154
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin274965
Henry273367
Holmes2699101
Coshocton268960
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll197148
Paulding176542
Meigs148240
Monroe136344
Noble136039
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
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