On Friday, June 22, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to again blast his political opponents in Congress for refusing to sign legislation on immigration. Trump's tweet about border stories claims Democrats' "sadness and grief" were "phony." The suggestion brought on a new round of backlash in what's become a global firestorm for the president surrounding the practice of separating families at the U.S. border.
"We must maintain a Strong Southern Border," tweeted Trump on Friday morning. "We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!"
It wasn't immediately clear to what stories the president was referring in his tweet. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment, and asked specifically whether the president was referring to the cases of family separation on the border, but did not receive a response at time of publication.
Friday's tweet was one of at least five by Trump on Friday alone having to do with immigration and border security, especially directing blame towards Democratic lawmakers. (The president has been liberal with this tweets this morning, sending out at least a dozen before lunchtime.)
The family separation came as a result of a new "zero-tolerance policy" by the Trump administration to prosecute every person who crossed the U.S. border illegally, thereby forcibly putting parents and children in separate immigration detention centers. The practice, in a period of just six weeks, had resulted in over 2,300 children being taken from their parents and placed in U.S. custody temporarily. Documentation from cases of family separation this week went viral, prompting global condemnation for the Trump administration's harsh policy.
One such case of family separation at least had a somewhat happy ending, as CNN reported Friday. A mother and son were reuinted after being separated by immigration authorities, an experience she described as feeling like "a knife in your chest." The potential impacts of parental separation on children especially have shown to be serious.
Cases of family separation at the border, like this one, have been well documented, and the president himself has acknowledged as such multiple times. "I hate to see separation of children and parents," Trump told a gathering of reporters outside the White House on June 15. But he also claimed the situation was the result of Democratic laws, and asked whether he could take action to stop family separations via executive action, said, "You can't do it through an executive order." (In fact, Trump made this claim several times in several ways.)
But apparently, he could. On Thursday, June 21, when he issued an executive order to discontinue family separations. In his remarks at the press briefing Thursday, the president again acknowledged the family separation practice, saying, "We're going to keep the families together. I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated."
The president has repeatedly scapegoated and blamed Democrats specifically, claiming that the family separations were a result of "their laws" and a refusal to bend to Republican legislation. His defense of the practice was echoed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who initially announced the policy in early April; White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. (The latter also denied that the zero tolerance policy was in fact a policy.)
On Twitter, plenty of people were worked up over Trump's latest outburst. "Phony? The pain is all too real. only phony thing here is trump story that the law forced family separations," tweeted CNN's Chris Cuomo.
"Did Melania Trump come back from the border and tell Donald Trump that the children told her 'their phony stories of sadness and grief,'" tweeted MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, quoting the president's tweet.
The mayor of El Paso, Texas, Republican Dee Margo, dodged a question from CNN about the president calling the stories "phony." Even he as mayor, he added, was denied entry into an immigration detention facility in Tornillo, Texas, where children were being held.
Calling the Democrats' "stories of sadness and grief" phony might have struck some as déjà vu. Back in March, his son, Donald Trump Jr., claimed that one of the Parkland Shooting victims was a paid "crisis actor" in circulating a conspiracy theory about them. As for Trump's claim that President Barack Obama "did nothing about it," it wasn't clear what he was referring to. But under Obama, there was never a policy of blanket prosecutions that separated families. (Though there were, notably, 2.5 million deportations in Obama's tenure.)
The optics on Trump's "phony stories" tweet aren't great taken at face value, but certainly weren't aided by another PR nightmare for the administration. On Thursday, Melania Trump was called out for her choice of jacket worn to visit children at the U.S.-Mexico border, the writing on which read, "I really don't care. Do u?" The first lady's spokesperson insisted that there was "no hidden message" in her wardrobe choices, but it wasn't ideal timing, to say the least.
In fact, Melania this week appealed to her husband in private to put an end to the practice of separating families at the border. As for whether the first lady's influence will carry over into other major decisions remains to be seen, but in the meantime, there's still the question of what happens to the families who are already split up.
The executive order is not likely to reunite any of the 2,300 children who have already reportedly been separated from their parents in just over six weeks, and it's unclear how the government plans to undergo that mammoth task.