“If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century,” — Barack Obama
Whether you want to blame Trump or Obama or Bush, the reality is the nightmare at the border is part of a long, slow turning. Here is a high-level timeline:
1997 – Flores vs. Reno (Attorney General Janet Reno)
The Supreme Court mandated that it was unlawful to hold an illegal immigrant child in a Federal detainment facility. The U.S. Federal court settled a nine-year-long suit against the government. The settlement ruled that unaccompanied minors that entered the U.S. illegally must be released from INS custody “without unnecessary delay.”
2008 – The Wilberforce Act
President Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which required officials to verify if adults claiming to be parents are in fact the child’s parents. The Wilberforce law was to protect children from sex traffickers and required immigration officials to determine the credibility of an adult’s claim of being a child’s parent.
2016 – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals doubled down on Flores vs. Reno by adding accompanied children to the release agreement, meaning that all minors that cross the border illegally must now be released. The decision did not state parents must be released.
The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s order granting the motion of a plaintiff class to enforce a 1997 Settlement with the government which set a nationwide policy for the detention, release, and treatment of minors detained in Immigration and Naturalization Service custody, and remanded for further proceedings.
The panel held that the Settlement unambiguously applies both to minors who are accompanied and unaccompanied by their parents.
Jan. 2017 – President Donald Trump signed executive orders changing many of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
April 2018 – Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance policy” for illegal entry.
May 2018 – Photos showing immigrant children in cages were widely circulated, though the photos turned out to be from 2014.
June 8: Reuters reported “Nearly 1,800 families separated at U.S.-Mexico border in 17 months through February”
June 20 – President Trump signed an executive order to stop separating immigrant families.