Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden landed himself in a factually sticky situation Thursday night, arguing former President Barack Obama had never taken part in the policy of family separation carried out at the outset of the Trump administration.
The false claim came late in the second and final debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle, as he faced off with incumbent Republican President Donald Trump on the issue of illegal immigration.
“These 500-plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with,” Biden said. “They got separated from their parents and it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”
“Kristen, they did it,” Trump said, addressing debate moderator Kristen Welker. “We changed the policy. They did it. We changed — they built the cages.”
“We did not separate — they,” Biden trailed off, changing course.
“Let’s talk about what we’re talking about. Let’s talk about what we’re talking about. What happened? Kids were ripped from their arms and separated.”
Trump taunts Biden on border separations: “Who built the cages, Joe?” pic.twitter.com/cqBURcGwj2
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 23, 2020
The narrative was not original, having already been fact-checked on numerous occasions by independent sources in the establishment media.
The Associated Press, for its part, checked former first lady Michelle Obama for making similar claims in an address to the 2020 Democratic National Convention this past August.
“Michelle Obama assailed President Donald Trump on Monday for allegedly ripping migrant children from their parents and throwing them into cages, picking up on a frequent and distorted point made widely by Democrats,” The AP wrote. “She’s right that Trump’s now-suspended policy at the U.S.-Mexico border separated thousands of children from their families in ways that had not been done before.”
“But what she did not say is that the very same ‘cages’ were built and used in her husband’s administration, for the same purpose of holding migrant kids temporarily,” the outlet added.
“The reference to cages is misleading and a matter that Democrats have persistently distorted. Trump used facilities that were built during the Obama-Biden administration to house children at the border.”
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) October 23, 2020
Social media users were quick to seize on Biden’s Thursday claim, forwarding Obama-era images of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities in question, complete with the aforementioned “cages.”
“Fact: Cages were built to detain unaccompanied children when @JoeBiden was VP not later by @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, who served during the Obama years.
“How do a I know? Because the Obama/Biden Administration gave me a tour of the cages in 2014 when I was governor.”
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