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Trump: ‘Obama built the cages’ his admin uses on migrant children




President Donald Trump gave a combative interview with Telemundo that aired Thursday, falsely blaming former President Barack Obama for migrant family separations but accurately noting that the Obama administration also detained migrant children in cages at the border.

Much of the interview centered around the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy last spring that led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.

Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart also briefly mentioned the shoddy conditions in which migrant children have been detained, which include large chainlink cages in certain Border Patrol processing facilities.

Díaz-Balart noted that many immigrants and Hispanic-Americans want the Trump administration to crack down on certain areas of the immigration system — mainly when it comes to deporting MS-13 gang members — but that they’re not in favor of harsh treatment towards migrant children and families.

Read more: Trump says he ‘brought the families together’ after being confronted in an interview about migrant family separations

“Those people are the first ones that want MS-13 removed, but they don’t want to see families separated at the border, they don’t want to see children in cages,” Díaz-Balart said.

“Obama built the cages,” Trump responded. “I didn’t build them. Obama built them.”

Cages under the Obama administration

The Trump administration has often come under scrutiny for using the cages to detain migrants, though a lesser-known detail is that those same cages have been used for years, albeit under different circumstances.

Last summer, for instance, images went viral showing young migrant children lying sprawled on flimsy mattresses, caged behind the metal fencing. Though critics rushed to condemn the Trump administration, it quickly emerged that the images were from 2014, during the Obama administration, and that the children had arrived at the border unaccompanied and were awaiting processing in the facilities.

In this June 18, 2014 file photo, two female detainees sleep in a holding cell, as the children are separated by age group and gender, as hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz.
Associated Press/Ross D. Franklin

Read more: Obama officials rushed to explain photos from 2014 that went viral showing locked-up immigrant children — and Trump’s facilities look the same

At the time, the Obama administration had been struggling to manage a major influx in unaccompanied Central American children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

As one former Obama official explained, “We didn’t have enough shelter facilities, because we had a huge increase, so kids ended up piling up in Border Patrol lock-ups, which are no places for children.”

Though the Obama administration faced criticism at the time for its treatment of migrant children, the Trump administration has come under more extreme scrutiny, largely due to the public outcry over last year’s family separations.

Trump in his Telemundo interview sought to blame Obama for the family separations as well, but the Obama administration did not have a policy around large-scale separation of migrant families. The thousands of children separated from their parents last year were separated entirely due to Trump policies.

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