MISSOULA – There has been much controversy surrounding the Trump administration’s decision to separate immigrant families at the U.S. border with Mexico. With all the opinions and finger-pointing from both sides of the aisle, there have been a number of issues raised regarding how President Trump’s policies differ from former administrations.
KPAX’s Kent Luetzen reached out to one of only four immigration attorneys in Montana to help answer some of these tough questions.
Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to keep families together after being detained at the border, reversing on his administration’s decision to separate children from their parents.
But, in defending his border policy, Trump insisted other administrations separated families, as well.
Randall Caudle, an immigration attorney at River Mountain Immigration, says this is not true.
“This was strictly something put in place by the Trump administration. Before, prior administrations, we had family detentions where families were detained together in special facilities,” Caudle said.
Now, Trump is not exactly wrong when he says other administrations separated families. In previous reports, according to Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, there were some instances when there were separations under the Obama presidency, but those involve specific cases, like when child trafficking was suspected.
Caudle added if child trafficking was suspected, it did not involve a parent, rather someone paid to transport the child to the U.S. and usually cartel-affiliated.
The Clinton administration pushed for a strong illegal immigration crackdown in 1996, signing the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Caudle added that Clinton was not just focused on criminal immigrants, but all immigrants without legal status in the U.S.
According to Caudle, there are several policies that determine a procedure for migrants and those are interpreted differently under each administration.
Caudle says other presidents had aggressive immigration policies, but never adopted the “zero tolerance” policy which has resulted in the separation of families.
“The immigration system is completely broken because it’s basically immigration laws built on top of each other that don’t mesh well," Caudle said. "For most people to come to the U.S. they have to wait years and years and years. Often decades before they can come here legally. It’s really difficult for most people.”
Many immigrants are escaping gang violence, drug cartels and domestic violence in their home towns. And According to Caudle, some are hoping to apply for political asylum when they reach the U.S. border.
“I can’t imagine people not being sympathetic at kids being ripped from their parents, but some people say they are breaking law by coming across illegally," Caudle said. "Well, they are not breaking the law by coming to the border and asking for political asylum. Both international and U.S. law allows people to apply for political asylum when they reach the border and we’re in violation of the law for not allowing them to do that."
Caudle added that many migrants are actually being picked up before they reach the border and told there are not enough resources to process their asylum claim.
It was originally reported 2,342 children were separated from their parents since May, and only 500 have been reunited.