Four years ago this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters outside a detention center where unaccompanied minors were being housed that it was her “hope that while some may have tried to politicize it, I hope that was not the case.”
That was then, this is now. After President Trump signed an executive order to ensure families are kept together during asylum and deportation proceedings, Pelosi asserted the action “seeks to replace one form of child abuse with another” by paving “the way for the long-term incarceration of families in prison-like conditions.”
The bar has been raised. Family detention is akin to child abuse? If so, then Barack Obama better hire an attorney because when it suited the moment, he increased the number of family detention centers and, albeit sporadically, used deportation as a policy of deterrence.
The political polarists and cable talking heads will say it is wrong because Trump is using it as a “deterrent” to others who might consider putting their own kids at risk to illegally cross the border.
But that is exactly one of the reasons – which Obama himself conceded in a 2015 exchange with open border immigration lawyer R. Andrew Free, which was detailed on Twitter.
According to Free, he told Obama at an event that his detention policy would be a stain on his legacy and the president asked him if he was an immigration lawyer.
“So when I said “Yes”, the President looked back and engaged: “I’ll tell you what we can’t have. It’s these parents sending their kids here on a dangerous journey and putting their lives at risk,” recounted Free in a June 18 Twitter commentary.
But Free is not the only historical record showing deportation as deterrence is not new.
Following an uptick in immigration enforcement in early 2016, Jeh Johnson, the head of Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS), defended the deportation of families and unaccompanied minors.
“I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed,” said Johnson in a January press release.
Johnson conceded in a Sunday interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “the images and the reality from 2014, just like 2018, are not pretty” and was “controversial” among open border activists at the time.
According to a Washington Post report, U.S. officials “said the operations are aimed at sending a strong message of deterrence to Central American families and avoiding a repeat of the 2014 border crisis.”
Lastly, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said in his 2015 ruling in a lawsuit against the Obama administration that there was “ample support” to show that “DHS policy directs ICE officers to consider deterrence of mass migration as a factor” in detention policies.
He went on to note that government lawyers “have essentially conceded that the recent surge in detention during a period of mass migration is not mere happenstance, but instead reflects a design to deter such migration.”
Unlike today’s revisionist historians, Johnson concedes that – controversial or not – family detention and deportation remains is a far better alternative to the failed policy of catch-and-release.
“I still believe it is necessary to [maintain]a certain capability for families. We can’t have catch and release and in my three years we deported, or repatriated or returned over a million people,” he added.