In 2018, Joe Biden said that a “policy that separates young children from their parents isn’t a deterrent, it’s unconscionable.” Biden went on to describe the child-separation policy first implemented under the Obama administration as “abhorrent,” and one that threatened “to make us a pariah in the world.” The entire media spent weeks contemplating the depth of our collective immorality. Progressives compared detention centers to Nazi concentration camps. Joe Scarborough equated border agents to SS guards. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went to the facility and broke down in tears. Charles Blow argued that Donald Trump was a baby snatcher. “These are children!” he wrote.
When Blow wrote his piece there were around 2,000 children being detained by the Border Patrol. This week, according to CBS News, around 3,200 migrant children were being held in Border Patrol facilities — a record — with almost half being held past the three-day legal limit. The coverage, as you can imagine, has a very different tone.
Then and now, it was a complicated issue. The Trump administration incompetently implemented its “zero tolerance” policy, but it certainly wasn’t snatching children like a depraved Gestapo. The fenced detention areas were built before Donald Trump had come into office. Only parents charged with entering the country illegally and who claim asylum after being apprehended were detained. Adults who opt not to be deported after entering illegally had to wait for adjudication of their case. While this happened, the law prohibited children from being held in the same detention centers as adults. This is done to protect children. It was then, and it is now.
The difference in tone, however, tells us that much of what we saw was nothing but performative partisan outrage.