CBP Deputy Commissioner Debunks Biden’s Claim That Obama Administration ‘Didn’t Lock People up in Cages’

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
September 13, 2019 Updated: September 14, 2019

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez debunked a claim by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden that the Obama administration did not use “cages” at immigration border facilities.

While responding to a question during the Democratic primary debate last night, Biden said, “Comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous. Number one, we didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families. We didn’t do all of those things, number one.”

During Fox News’ America’s Newsroom on Sept. 13, the program’s anchor, Julie Banderas, pointed out that Biden’s claim was “simply untrue,” and is a narrative frequently pushed by Democrats.

“The cages were built by the Obama administration in 2014, not Trump. Correct?” Banderas asked Perez.

“That is correct,” Perez replied. “The challenges and the loopholes to the legal framework have been fueling, firstly, a border security crisis that evolved into a humanitarian crisis have been present through several administrations. Not just the last two, in some cases even beyond that.”

He then went on to say that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have taken “unprecedented steps” to deal with the crisis within “the confines of this legal framework,” especially in the last few months.

He said America’s cooperation with Mexican authorities in recent weeks has made “real inroads” by bringing down the number of illegal immigrants being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Apprehensions at the southern border fell by 56 percent within three months since record-high numbers in May. In August, CBP arrested or deemed inadmissible 64,006 illegal immigrants, which is down from 144,266 in May.

illegal immigrants in New Mexico
U.S. Border Patrol said agents detained the largest group ever intercepted at one time, consisting of 424 individuals, in New Mexico, on April 30. Pictured is a second, smaller group of 230 illegal immigrants apprehended on April 30 in Antelope Wells. (US Border Patrol)

The drop came after the United States and Mexico reached a deal to expanded implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and increased security at the southern border.

The deal came about after President Donald Trump threatened Mexico with a 5 percent important tariff on all goods coming from Mexico if the country did not take action to tackle the massive number of migrants passing through the country in order to illegally enter the United States or to claim asylum. The tariff would have increased every month until it reached 25 percent.

Following Trump’s deal, which was made in June, apprehensions or people deemed inadmissible fell by a third, to around 104,000, in that month, then to just over 82,000 in July before dropping again by 22 percent in August.

“Why do we see, in 90 days, a 56 percent reduction?” CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters during a press conference on Sept. 9. “The President has made it very clear that he’s going to use every tool available to him and this administration to address this unprecedented crisis at the southern border.”

“We have seen historic agreements and policies put in place by this administration; an unprecedented network of initiatives, from regulatory reforms, policy changes, interior enforcement efforts. The list goes on and on, what this administration has done that resulted in this 56 percent decrease,” he added.

Although apprehensions have fallen, Perez during his Fox appearance called for Congress to take action to find a permanent solution for the humanitarian crisis at the border.

“Congress just got back in town. It is time for them to get to work with us to find lasting solutions to this ongoing challenge,” he said.

Perez also said CBP officers have been providing additional space and care for illegal immigrants in order to deal with the unprecedented influx.

Epoch Times Photo
A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Luis, Arizona on November 17, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Similarly to Biden, many other Democrats have accused Trump of keeping children in cages, using photos from during the Obama administration to criticize the president’s immigration policies.

An Associated Press photo of two unidentified female detainees sleeping in a holding cell taken in June 2014 was widely reported by media outlets and circulated on social media to falsely represent Trump’s policies.

Back in July, House Oversight Committee Democrats were called out for using photos of detention facilities from the Obama administration to promote their hearing called “Kids in cages: Inhuman treatment at the border.”

The hearing was meant to examine alleged “inhumane treatment of the children” in detention facilities under the Trump administration, but the tweet posted by the committee contained a photo taken by The Associated Press in 2014, which shows immigrants in an Arizona detention facility.

Trump War Room, a social media account maintained by the 2020 Trump campaign, was quick to point out and criticize House Democrats for the blunder.

“House Democrats are promoting their ‘civil rights’ hearing on ‘kids in cages’ and ‘inhumane treatment’ with a photo from 2014, when Joe Biden was Vice President. So dishonest!” the campaign wrote in their post.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.