Former Vice President Joe Biden released a strongly worded statement on Wednesday afternoon calling the Trump administration’s practice of separating young children from their parents “unconscionable” and “abhorrent.”
“A policy that separates young children from their parents isn’t a ‘deterrent.’ It’s unconscionable,” Biden, who is currently topping the polls as a 2020 presidential candidate, wrote in the statement. “A policy that traumatizes children isn’t a bargaining chip. It’s abhorrent. And a President and an administration that continues this policy isn’t protecting our border and our people. It threatens to make us a pariah in the world.”
Biden spoke from experience on such a controversial topic. In the Obama administration, he dealt with the 2014 surge of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US border as they fled their home countries.
The Obama administration also faced harsh criticism for its actions at the time. Obama was sometimes referred to as the “deporter in chief” by immigrant rights groups, which criticized his administration’s removal of more than 2.5 million people with immigration orders between 2009 and 2015. Large numbers of migrants were also detained while waiting for deportation proceedings under his administration.
Biden referenced his own work traveling to Guatemala in 2014 to discuss the influx of unaccompanied Central American children streaming across the US border, and to encourage leaders there to make their own countries safer to cut down on the flow of migrants. He traveled back to the country in subsequent years for the same purpose.
“I know how difficult this problem is,” he said. “As vice president, I was charged with leading our response when we saw a surge of unaccompanied minors on our border. And I can tell you the answer is not to toss aside our values, our principles, and our humanity.”
The Obama administration did not make it a policy to separate undocumented families while they were detained in government facilities. Officials from both the Obama and Bush administrations told the New York Times that while they considered implementing such a policy, they decided it would be too draconian.
Biden reiterated that in his Wednesday statement. “We must send the clearest possible signal to the rest of the world that America still represents the best of humanity — not the worst,” he said.