Although President Trump has simply been continuing the policies of his predecessor, under whom there was nary a peep about child immigrants, the hysteria surrounding family separation at the border may have more to do with the president’s name than his enforcement of the law.
Whether one agrees with Trump or not, understand that the “new” Trump administration policy is not to separate children from their parents. That policy began during the Obama administration, and neither president wanted it to happen. (Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy refers to total enforcement of immigration law.) What caused it was a 2014 Ninth Circuit Court decision that expanded the 1997 ruling in Flores v. Reno from covering only unaccompanied alien children to “accompanied” ones as well. This set a new general standard that accompanied children couldn’t be held in custody with their parents for more than 20 days.
This ruling was handed down in 2014. In fact, many of the pictures of children in cages circulating on the Internet were taken that year, when Obama administration policies forced border agents to separate children from their parents and hold them in the same detention centers that they do under the Trump administration today.
But no one compared Obama to Hitler.
The analogies may have begun with Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, who has been feuding with the president ever since Trump attacked his co-host Mika Brzezinski. On June 15, Joe compared the ICE agents’ actions to children during the Holocaust being told that they were going “to the showers” and “never coming back.”
It must have been MSNBC’s theme of the day, because on the next show, Live with Stephanie Ruhle, one of Ruhle’s guests, former Obama campaign staffer Stephanie Cutter, asked, “We can’t find a solution to this problem without harming children? Without putting them in concentration camps?”
In the detention centers that house the illegal immigrant children, they are given three square meals a day, toys to play with, TVs to watch, outdoor playtime, and even school — a far cry from the treatment of young Holocaust victims in concentration camps.
The next day, former CIA director Michael Hayden tweeted a picture of Birkenau with the caption, “Other governments have separated mothers and children.” Noah Smith of Bloomberg News tweeted, “On a more serious note, good reasons to compare the Trump administration to the Nazis include: 1. Being able to discuss out loud the chance that Trump might someday do Hitler-esque things 2. Decrying the ways Trump has already gone more in a Nazi-like direction than we’d like.”
Former ad executive Donny Deutsch expanded the Nazi references to all Trump voters. “If we are working towards November, we can no longer say ‘Trump’s the bad guy,’” he said. “If you vote for Trump, you’re the bad guy. … If you vote for Trump then you, the voter, you, not Donald Trump, are standing at the border like Nazis.”
Such absurd comparisons are an insult to those who perished under the Nazis, and to those who fought and died to rid the world of this evil.
Too often, we hear people trot out the word “Nazi” to describe someone or something that does not align with their political beliefs. To compare President Trump to Hitler, and immigration detention centers to concentration camps, is not only untrue, but demonstrates the country’s lack of ability to generate an accurate analogy. It is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. But worst of all, it waters down the depth of the Holocaust.