In a recent interview on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar if he could return all of the children separated from their parents as they attempted to cross the Mexico/U.S. border.
“We could put children back with people who are murderers, kidnappers, rapists, or not their parents, but we work with the court to ensure that we do our duty, which is to protect child welfare. We could release all the children by 10:55 p.m., but I don’t think you want that and I know the court doesn’t want that. I don’t think even our political opponents want that.” When Blitzer wondered if some of the children’s parents had already been deported, he continued, “I don’t think a kidnapper or a child abuser or a child trafficker ought to be able to take a kid out of the country or be reunited in nice facilities, and I don’t think the court believes that either.”
According to Azar, “I believe we are saving kids’ lives here by the work we are doing.”
Azar’s characterization of the parents of the children as dangerous criminals is consistent with the rhetoric of the Trump Administration since the day Donald Trump announced that he would run for the presidency. He has regularly mischaracterized them as members of MS-13, and Azar’s defense is now that of administration spokespeople. Children have been separated from parents with birth certificates, even when they requested asylum by following procedures.
In fact, most of those fleeing Central America are doing so because the danger and uncertainty of crossing Mexico and trying to get into the United States now is less frightening than remaining where they live. When members of the administration assert that people should stay home or be sent home, here are the conditions they’re fleeing in a point-form summary, courtesy of USA Today.
"This isn’t about immigrants chasing the American dream anymore," Sofia Martinez, a Guatemala-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, told the Associated Press. "It’s about escaping a death sentence."
Azar’s interview came after the administration missed the court-appointed deadline to reunite detained children five and under with their parents, and after the relief from Flores that Trump’s executive order relied on was denied. In context, it sounded like an on-brand effort to change the subject and point once again at the myth of immigrant criminality that has been consistently debunked.