On Thursday, Oct. 22, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off for a second and final debate. At the debate, moderator Kristen Welker asked the candidates about their stance on policies regarding immigration and Trump's notorious "zero-tolerance" family separation policy — and viewers were less than impressed with the president's commentary on the issue. Many thought Trump's comments about family separation at the Oct. 22 debate were callous, considering he did not share if there was a plan for how kids would be reunited with their families.
The zero-tolerance policy, which was publicly in place during the spring and summer of 2018, required undocumented immigrant children to be separated from their parents, and was widely criticized as inhumane. But on Tuesday, Oct. 19, the policy was launched back into the public eye thanks to a court filing from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), reported by The Guardian and other news sources, which revealed lawyers haven't been able to locate the parents of 545 children separated from their families at the border under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy. The children's parents had reportedly been deported back to Central America and were unable to be found. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment on the subject. Welker referenced the report at the debate, asking the president, "You've since reversed your zero-tolerance policy, but the United States can't locate the parents of more than 500 children. How will these families ever be reunited?"
"We’re trying very hard [to reunite families], but a lot of these kids come out without the parents," Trump told Welker. "They come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs." Trump then claimed the children are "so well taken care of," adding, "they’re in facilities that are so clean . . . We now have as strong of a border as we ever had. We're over 400 miles of brand new wall."
He also attempted to deflect blame to the Obama administration. "One question, who built the cages?" he asked. While it is true that the Obama administration also had a family detention policy for migrants, these families were primarily detained together, according to the Migration Policy Institute, and there was no policy requiring mass family separations. A long-standing U.S. policy, the Flores agreement, also places limits on the detention of children.
In response, Biden made his stance on the subject clear. "These 500-plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with," he said. "It makes us a laughing stock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation," he added.
Since 2018 Trump has falsely attributed the zero-tolerance policy, which resulted in thousands of children being taken from their parents, to Democrats numerous times, per CNBC. "The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda," he claimed in a June 2018 tweet. He also said the party was "obstructing" him from getting rid of the policy by refusing to collaborate on immigration reform.
Viewers were quick to take to Twitter to comment on Trump's response to the topic, which many found callous. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on his remarks.
However, it appears Trump was correct in that someone is trying very hard to reunite the families. In an Oct. 20 statement to NBC News, ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said that while the search isn't easy, especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is still committed to reuniting the separating families. The ACLU is one of the organizations comprising the "steering committee" working to help the separated children.
“People ask when we will find all of these families and, sadly, I can’t give an answer. I just don’t know," Gelernt told the publication. "But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes."
With less than two weeks before the election, many people have already weighed in on the next president — as of Oct. 22, more than 40 million people have already voted early or by mail, per The Washington Post. For those who haven't, it's up to them whether this will swing their vote or not.