The president tweeted this morning blaming the policy of separating out the parents and children of undocumented immigrants at the border on “bad legislation passed by the Democrats.” As Toronto Star reported Daniel Dale pointed out, this is a flat-out lie: The policy is discretionary.
Also this morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who pressed him on the separation. Sessions at first deflected, saying “most are not infants. Most are teenagers, although we do have a number of younger ones now, more than we’ve seen recently.”
Like Trump, Sessions tried to dissemble by saying there is a legal obligation behind the policy. But at a crucial moment, he admitted it was driven by the policy goal of sending a “message” to potential immigrants and asylum seekers:
Hewitt: Can’t we have facilities where parents remain united with kids?
Sessions: Well, we can, we’d be glad to work at that, and actually, to keep them as close as possible, and then they’re deported. But the law requires us to keep children in a different facility than we do for adults. And every time somebody, Hugh, gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children. We don’t want to do this at all. If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out. You’re not given immunity. You have to, you will be prosecuted if you bring, if you come illegally. And if you bring children, you’ll still be prosecuted.
Hewitt: I understand the message.
Hewitt is not the only one who understands the message. The meaning of the policy is clear, whether Trump wants to own it or not.