On February 21 2020 — just one day before the Nevada Democratic Party caucuses — a super PAC promoting United States President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign released a Spanish-language ad steeped in disinformation about immigration policy.
The commercial takes aim at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by tying him not only to a false allegation, but also to a convenient right-wing boogeyman by using Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Biden served as Obama’s vice-president.
Translated into English, the ad narrator says:
Barack Obama and Joe Biden promised to reform immigration. We didn’t know it was a lie. They separated families and put children in cages. Barack Obama and Joe Biden failed. Now, Joe Biden promised to reform immigration. Is he lying again? Joe Biden has lied before, don’t let him get away with it as president.
Social media users quickly took note of the ad on Facebook and Twitter, but users might be unclear as to its origin; as The Hill reported, it was actually produced by the Committee to Protect the President super PAC, rather than the Trump campaign itself.
The argument that Obama and Biden had a policy that “separated families” is a lie promoted by the president and his allies, and one that has been consistently debunked. In reality, it was the Trump administration that originated the policy of separating undocumented immigrant families as part of a “zero-tolerance” policy introduced in 2018 by Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. During her tenure as Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen drew widespread criticism for falsely claiming, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period” despite mountains of evidence — and thousands of families that remain apart and devastated — to the contrary.
We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.
— Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen (@SecNielsen) June 17, 2018
In October 2019, the Trump administration told the American Civil Liberties Union that more than 5,400 families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, including 1,090 children taken from their families after a June 2018 federal court order limiting separations except in circumstances where the children’s life could be threatened, or doubts whether the adults accompanying them across the border were really their parents.