I have seen several times already people use pictures to argue that Obama separated families. These pictures have protest signs that state: “Stop Deportations and Families Separation” and “Obama Don’t Separate Me From My Mommy!”
Some are using these pictures to argue that what is occurring at the border now also happened under Obama. This is incorrect. The issue being protested certainly is the separation of families under Obama, but not at the border. Let me explain (I know because I was there, and I protested what was happening then).
Obama deported a tremendous number of undocumented immigrants during his presidency, so many that pro-immigrant advocates began calling him “Deporter-in-Chief.” These deportations however primarily focused on people with a criminal record. Deportations were prioritized.
What many protested under Obama’s presidency was that those deported often left behind US-born children. These children would stay with the other parent, or sometimes were put in foster care. If a working father was deported, this meant there was now a mother with three or four children who sometimes had to start relying on government assistance to feed her children (note: if a parent is undocumented, the parent is not eligible for government assistance, but the US-born children, who are citizens, are eligible).
During this time families were ripped apart suddenly and painfully. I experienced this reality many, many times during the early years of my priesthood. I helped many mothers who needed both financial and moral support while their husbands were incarcerated and some eventually deported. I saw countless US-born children grow jaded and angry at their own government for the way their parents were treated. I consoled a family when the father was picked up while driving to Kroger to pick up the first communion cake the morning of his son’s first communion. I visited parishioners incarcerated for driving without a driver’s license, sometimes driving to neighboring counties to see them. I encouraged my parishioners to go protest in Atlanta and Washington DC with a Georgia immigrant association (GLAHR).
Yes, Obama separated families, but not in the way we see today. Both are bad, and I thought what happened in the past could not be made worse. Unfortunately I find what is happening to the children at the border now is scandalous.