Over the last few weeks, thousands of immigrant families crossing the border have been separated as the result of President Donald Trump's recent border crackdown. Trump and his cohorts have feigned compassion while deflecting blame for the widespread practice, but it seems his own confidants are defying that pretense. Case-in-point: This video of Corey Lewandowski saying "womp, womp" after being told the story of a girl who was separated from her mom. People have been disturbed, to say the least.
Here's what prompted the reaction: During an appearance Tuesday on Fox News, Zac Petkanas, former senior adviser of the Democratic National Committee, relayed the story of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her mother and "put in a cage," according to CNN. After Petkanas shared the anecdotal report, Trump's former campaign manager responded with "womp womp" (CBS News reported it as "wah wah"), upsetting Petkanas, according to the video published by CNN. "How dare you," Petkanas said repeatedly as Lewandowski doubled-down on anti-immigration talking points.
It's worth noting that, per government documents shared on Twitter by Reveal reporter Aaron Sankin, Lewandowski is part of the Great America Committee, a PAC registered by Vice President Pence that receives donations from The Geo Group, Inc., the country's largest operator of private prisons and immigration detention facilities. (Romper has reached out to Lewandowski for comment, but has not heard back in time for publication.)
Lewandowski took to Twitter to defend himself amid the intense backlash following his Fox News appearance. Taking a page out of Trump's handbook, the Republican commentator called reports on the video "fake news," adding in his error-filled tweet:
I mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system. It’s offenseive [sic] that the MSM doesn’t want to talk about the fact these policies were started under Obama.
As outrage over family separation continues to swell, Trump and his cohorts, including Lewandowski and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have stood firm in deflecting blame to Democrats and the previous administration. But as news report upon news report have proven, Trump alone is responsible for migrant children being separated from their parents. Requiring families to be separated at the border is not written into the country's immigration laws; rather, it's the direct result of the "zero tolerance" policy implemented and enforced by the Trump administration in April.
About 2,000 immigrant children have been removed from their parents over the last two months, according to The Associated Press. By the end of the summer, the government may separate and detain some 30,000 undocumented youth, Vox reported.
Despite Trump's claims, progressives have and continue to recognize that President Barack Obama has a poor track record when it comes to immigration. And some of the policies and actions of his immigration have led to immigrant families being separated in some regard, according to Rewire.News. But, as NBC News reported, unlike Trump, the Obama administration did not implement a policy that involved the sweeping practice of taking migrant kids from their parents.
Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, explained to NBC News:
There were occasionally instances where you would find a separated family — maybe like one every six months to a year — and that was usually because there had been some actual individualized concern that there was a trafficking situation or that the parent wasn’t actually the parent.
Trump, though, did announce on Wednesday that he will sign an executive order to end family separation, according to The Guardian. He told reporters in a news conference that his administration is "looking to keep families together," but the government still has "to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for and that we don't want," The Guardian reported.
Lewandowski's reaction is unsettling because it betrayed any pretense of empathy the Trump administration has shown. Whether or not this executive order reverses that remains to be seen.