Bill Clinton's 1996 Immigration Law Behind Child Separations-Fiction!

Bill Clinton’s 1996 Immigration Law is to Blame for Child Separations-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

Bill Clinton’s 1996 (or 1997) immigration law is to blame for a federal policy that separates immigrant children from their parents at the border.

The Truth:

Bill Clinton signed an immigration law in 1996 that made it easier for the federal government to deport people. The bill also subjected more immigrants to the threat of deportation. But the 1996 immigration law did not lay the groundwork for federal policy that separates children from their parents at the border.
President Trump (who later signed an order reversing his child separation policy) has continuously blamed Democrats for the controversial policy. He’s argued that his child-separation policy is simply enforcing existing immigration laws, and that Congress (and Democrats in particular) must act to change the law. Those claims gave rise to the idea that Bill Clinton’s 1996 immigration law was to blame for the policy. And that’s not true.
The Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 implemented sweeping changes. It enhanced border and interior enforcement, removal procedures and processes for claiming asylum. Because the Trump administration’s child separation policy relates to families that cross the border seeking asylum, that’s the provision of the 1996 law that would apply most.
But the 1996 law didn’t address family separations, or set the stage for them. It established a new asylum status for victims of forced abortion or sterilization. It also required asylum seekers to apply within one year of arrival and denied most re-applicants outright. The law does not require “zero tolerance,” or criminal prosecution of all asylum seekers who cross the border. The law also does not mandate that immigrant children be separated from their family. For those reasons, we’re calling claims that Clinton’s 1996 law is to blame for child separations “fiction.”

What’s Really Behind Child Separations?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to prosecute all asylum-seeking adults as criminals is behind the child separations. While their parents are being detained, the children are subject to the 1997 Flores agreement. If the child of a detained parent can’t be placed with a caregiver, the amendment requires that the government house them in the “least restrictive” way possible.
Although Bill Clinton was president in 1997, he didn’t sign the Flores agreement into law. The agreement resulted from a class-action lawsuit that was filed in 1986 by  the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and the National Center for Youth Law, over the treatment of child immigrants in federal facilities.  Negotiations and court proceedings dragged on for nine years, spanning three presidencies. So, the claim that Bill Clinton is to blame for the 1997 Flores agreement is not entirely accurate, either.