Obama Takes Apparent Swipe at Trump's Immigration Policy

Former president asks whether the country accepts the 'cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms'

Barack Obama
Getty Images
June 20, 2018

Former President Barack Obama appeared to criticize the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has led to the separation of illegal immigrant families at the U.S. souther border, in a new Facebook post published Wednesday.

"Today is World Refugee Day," wrote Obama, who asked American readers to imagine "if you'd been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children."

"That's the reality for so many of the families whose plights we see and heart-rending cries we hear," the 44th president continued. "And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?"

Obama appeared to be referencing the contentious debate in the U.S. over the administrations's zero-tolerance immigration policy, under which all individuals who cross the border illegally, including those who claim to seek asylum, are charged with unlawful entry. Because federal law prohibits children from being held in the same detention facility as those charged with unlawful entry, border patrol agents have separated children from their parents who are prosecuted for entering the U.S. illegally.

Trump said Wednesday that he would be "signing something in a little while" that would keep families together at the border.

Obama also noted that most Americans are descendants of immigrants who created a culture of acceptance, adding that people should make their voices heard with actions, not just words, and at the ballot box.

"To find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant—to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time—is part of what makes us American," Obama wrote. "After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we're only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship."

"That's the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it's something we have to protect for the generations to come," he added. "But we have to do more than say 'this isn't who we are.' We have to prove it—through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes."

Immigration advocates criticized Obama while he was president for the number of deportations and detainments that his administration oversaw. There were instances of immigrant family separation during the Obama administration, but it was not a common practice. Obama's top domestic policy adviser, Cecilia Muñoz, told the New York Times in a recent interview that the former administration had considered a family-separation policy but ultimately opted against it.

Wednesday was not the first time that Obama has commented on his successor's policies. The 44th president has appeared on television and used social media to stay active in politics and use his influence. It also appears that he is taking an active role in preparing the Democratic Party for the 2020 presidential election by holding secret meetings with potential candidates, according to reports.

Read Obama's entire Facebook post below: