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AP FACT CHECK: Michelle Obama and the kids in ‘cages’ -- what’s true?

The reference to cages is misleading and a matter that Democrats have persistently distorted, fact check finds

In this image from video, former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)
In this image from video, former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama assailed President Donald Trump on Monday for ripping migrant children from their parents and throwing them into cages, picking up on a frequent and distorted point made widely by Democrats.

She’s right that Trump’s now-suspended policy at the U.S.-Mexico border separated thousands of children from their families in ways that had not been done before. But what she did not say is that the very same “cages” were built and used in her husband’s administration, for the same purpose of holding migrant kids temporarily.

A look at her remark in the keynote address at the opening night of the remote Democratic National Convention:

MICHELLE OBAMA, on Americans: “They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages.”

THE FACTS: The reference to cages is misleading and a matter that Democrats have persistently distorted.


Trump used facilities that were built during the Obama-Biden administration to house children at the border. They are chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants were temporarily housed, separated by sex and age.

At the height of the controversy over Trump’s zero-tolerance policy at the border, photos that circulated online of children in the enclosures generated great anger. But those photos — by The Associated Press — were taken in 2014 and depicted some of the thousands of unaccompanied children held by President Barack Obama.

When that fact came to light, some Democrats and activists who had tweeted the photos deleted their tweets. But prominent Democrats have continued to cite cages for children as a distinctive cruelty of Trump.

The former first lady was correct, however, in addressing the removal of children from parents at the border.

The Obama administration separated migrant children from families under certain limited circumstances, like when the child’s safety appeared at risk or when the parent had a serious criminal history.

But family separations as a matter of routine came about because of Trump’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy, which he eventually suspended because of the uproar. Obama had no such policy.

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