HOUSTON - A KHOU 11 News viewer asked our Verify team to look into whether just as many families were separated during the Barack Obama presidency as they are in the Donald Trump presidency.
"The news media forgets to mention this fact," the viewer said.
Two immigration attorneys weighed in on the statement.
“Totally false. I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything to this level of separating families and children,” said Gordon Quan, a prominent Houston lawyer.
Quan explained many of the children detained during the Obama administration arrived at the border alone.
“There was an onslaught of unaccompanied minors who came to the United States under the Obama administration. What we’re looking at now are families coming together,” he said.
Families illegally crossing the border is not new, but how they’re handled is, according to University of Houston professor Geoffrey Hoffman.
“Under the Obama administration, they by and large tried to keep families together. Some people roundly criticized the Obama administration, because of family detention,” he said. “People who had a previous final order of removal, so they’re entering after a final order, they would be referred to prosecutions. In that case, in those small number of cases, they might be separated from the families. That’s a very small percentage. Now, if it’s 100 percent, you’re getting thousands upon thousands of people who are being forcibly separated from their children.”
The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” approach means all adults caught crossing the border illegally are sent for prosecution. Since kids can’t stay in adult jails, they’re separated now.
Homeland Security says about 2,000 kids have been separated from parents since the policy was announced in April.
“As you can see, we did not have tent cities. We did not have facilities to hold hundreds of children under the Obama administration. For them to say this was a policy in place under the Democrats, it was never enforced that way either under Obama or George W. Bush,” Quan said.
Border Patrol did respond to requests for statistics regarding family separation Tuesday.
Gordon Quan, Houston immigration attorney
Geoffrey Hoffman, University of Houston professor