An independent expert leading a UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty has falsely attributed 100,000 migrant child detentions to Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies. The story made headlines in the US, but it soon emerged that the 100,000 detentions actually were reported under Barack Obama.
Several major media outlets in the US and elsewhere have been forced to publish retractions after mistakenly shaming President Donald Trump for Barack Obama’s migrant detention numbers.
On Monday, Manfred Nowak, an outside expert working with the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters that the US “still has more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention.”
Major news organisations, including AP, AFP, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC picked up the story and shamed Donald Trump for his harsh immigration policies.
The DNC War Room and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted it out as well.
The following day, however, Nowak admitted that the figures were from a 2015 UN report, the latest figure he could find. President Obama was still in office at the time.
Nowak also said his initial estimate was the cumulative number of migrant children detained for any period of time during that year, but not simultaneously. He still reiterated his initial assumption that the number of child detentions in the US is larger than in other countries for which he had reliable figures.
All of the aforementioned outlets, as well as several others, had to withdraw their stories and make retractions. The DNC War Room and Bernie Sanders subsequently deleted their tweets.
For Trump, this was definitely a perfect “gotcha” moment.
The US President has not issued an angry rant about this blunder yet, as one might have expected, but his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has already stepped in.
He wrote: “I guess they’ll only withdraw true stories that make Obama look bad rather than leaving up the truth for everyone to see? This is why no one trusts the media.”
One of Donald Trump’s main campaign pledges in 2016 was the adoption of stricter immigration policies. He has since delivered on that pledge, challenging the Obama-era DREAM and DACA programmes in courts and adopting a policy of separating migrant children from their caregivers (parents or guardians) with whom they had illegally entered the US.
According to government data published last week, there were 69,550 migrant children held by US officials over the past fiscal year — a 42% increase from fiscal year 2018.