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Politfact says,

While the Obama administration's immigration approach was not without controversy, it’s simply untrue to say he had a policy of separating families.

Did any policy though result in separating families?

The Trump administration's current approach is modeled after Operation Streamline, a 2005 program under the administration of George W. Bush, according to Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. The key difference, he said, is that while the 2005 program referred all illegal immigrants for prosecution, it made exceptions for adults traveling with children.

Was Obama's approach not also modeled after Operation Streamline? If an adult was traveling with children, what would happen under Obama and Bush if that adult or child was ruled against in an ICE hearing? Was the policy to force the parent or child through deportation thus, "separating the family", or was it to permit the family to stay here?

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    @EvanCarrol When you write "Was the policy to force the parent or child through deportation thus, "separating the family", or was it to permit the family to stay here?", you might consider that it might have been to process families together, without separating them, and then either deport or accept the family as a whole. – DJClayworth Jun 22 '18 at 13:13
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    This is a strawman. Even if Obama had a policy of separating migrant families Obama DID NOT have a policy of forcibly taking children to detention centres. This is merely playing with definitions. – slebetman Jun 22 '18 at 22:24
  • @slebetman really, you thought they went to detention centers willingly? How do you see that happening? – Evan Carroll Jun 22 '18 at 22:33
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    @EvanCarroll: During the Obama era children with parents were not sent to separate detention centres. Reports of separation were along the lines of - parent got deported and had to leave their children with relatives. Think about this: Trump had to build 3 new child detention centres. If this was an ongoing policy why are 3 new detention centres needed? Why weren't they pre-existing? – slebetman Jun 22 '18 at 23:36
  • The question isn't about detention centers either. Which Obama certainly built, look at the answer below: reuters.com/article/… The question is about whether or not there was a moral principal by Democrats or Obama to not tear apart families. "46,486 undocumented mothers and fathers received orders to leave the country and were forced to decide what to do with their U.S.-born children." is a pretty big no-- Democrats were on board with ripping apart families. – Evan Carroll Jun 22 '18 at 23:42
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It depends on how you want to stretch your definitions, after reading the article below, can you really say, "it’s simply untrue to say Obama had a policy of separating families"?

HuffPost May 13, 2012 - Deported Moms With American Children Separated On Mother’s Day

About 22 percent of all undocumented immigrants deported in the first half of 2011 were parents of U.S.-born children. As part of the Obama administration’s record-setting deportation year, between January and June 2011, 46,486 undocumented mothers and fathers received orders to leave the country and were forced to decide what to do with their U.S.-born children. While in some instances, deported parents decide to bring their children with them, parents thinking it was in their child’s best interest, left them with relatives, neighbors, or friends in the United States.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/deported-moms-mothers-day_n_1509963.html

Families torn apart by immigration issues is not a new problem. Hopefully the current events will raise people's awareness to the issue.

American Immigration Council April 26, 2010 - The Ones They Leave Behind: Deportation of Lawful Permanent Residents Harm U.S. Citizen Children

In the Child’s Best Interest, a new report by the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, and the Immigration Law Clinic at the UC Davis School of Law finds that: More than 100,000 children were affected by parental deportation between 1997 and 2007.

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/ones-they-leave-behind-deportation-lawful-permanent-residents-harm-us-citizen-children

There are many issues involved here. Even though the following article talks about “unaccompanied minors” there are stories of families being split up at the border, and without the proper documentation, many minor children are classified as “unaccompanied minors.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) JUNE 9, 2014

The Obama administration on Monday announced it is designating a third U.S. military base for emergency housing of children immigrating illegally into the United States without parents or relatives, as the cost of caring for these minors escalated.

Senior administration officials, who asked not to be identified, told reporters that an Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will initially hold 600 “unaccompanied minors” and eventually will be able to accommodate up to 1,200.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN0EK1VM20140609

My concern is that the issue has been sensationalized by the media as "news," everyone gets excited about it, and screams something needs to be done about it.

That is, until the next news story comes along, and has everyone excited about the next new important event.

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    In Dutch we call that de waan van de dag, meaning something like the madness of the day. Restricting your news input to quality weekly magazines is a good way to avoid that. – gerrit Jun 22 '18 at 17:32
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    This is less than convincing: your first two quotes were about parents being deported who then had to choose whether to take their US-born children with them or not (such children having the right to return to the United States at any time), while your third involves children who migrated illegally without their parents. But the comparative situation in the last week seems to have involved illegal migrant families being detained and separated without the choice to stay together, as a deliberate act of policy before the most immediate reversal – Henry Jun 22 '18 at 21:13
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    There is a world of difference between me going overseas (in my case for a business trip) deciding to leave my kids in the care of my friends or family and law enforcement coming to my house and taking BOTH ME AND MY KIDS to detention. – slebetman Jun 22 '18 at 22:23
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    @gerrit We unfortunately do not have quality news sources anymore. – Andy Jun 23 '18 at 16:45
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    Well researched, but the issue starts further back with a law from I think it was 1997 that mandates children from people who are incarcerated are taken into custody and cared for by the state if there's no legal guardian to do so. This is irrespective of the immigration status or citizenship of the adults and children involved, so includes US citizens as well as both legal and illegal migrants. – jwenting Jun 25 '18 at 5:48
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By no reasonable standard did the Obama administration have a policy of separating minors.

To make sure we set the scene, the current (2019) Trump administration has a policy that when children and parents are apprehended together, the children are removed from their parents and incarcerated separately from them. The parents are offered no choice in this matter. The claim is that the Obama administration policy is in some way similar.

We also have statements from Politifact that the Obama administration did not have such a policy. Politifact is a good source, and has done much more research than we have. Merely mentioning them in the question doesn't invalidate this status.

The only similarity is that Obama administration deported undocumented migrant parents who had documented US-born children, allowing the parents the choice to take with their children with them or leave them behind in the US. This is the same policy that all previous administrations have had, and which they legally cannot prevent.

Consider the following reports:

HuffPost May 13, 2012 - Deported Moms With American Children Separated On Mother’s Day

About 22 percent of all undocumented immigrants deported in the first half of 2011 were parents of U.S.-born children. As part of the Obama administration’s record-setting deportation year, between January and June 2011, 46,486 undocumented mothers and fathers received orders to leave the country and were forced to decide what to do with their U.S.-born children. While in some instances, deported parents decide to bring their children with them, parents thinking it was in their child’s best interest, left them with relatives, neighbors, or friends in the United States.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/deported-moms-mothers-day_n_1509963.html

In the cases above, non-citizen parents with US citizen children are to be deported. The parents are offered the choice of having their children leave the country with them, or have the children remain in the country with other relatives (as is the children's right). It is entirely the parents choice which option they take. They can choose to have their children remain with them if they wish.

American Immigration Council April 26, 2010 - The Ones They Leave Behind: Deportation of Lawful Permanent Residents Harm U.S. Citizen Children

In the Child’s Best Interest, a new report by the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, and the Immigration Law Clinic at the UC Davis School of Law finds that: More than 100,000 children were affected by parental deportation between 1997 and 2007.

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/ones-they-leave-behind-deportation-lawful-permanent-residents-harm-us-citizen-children

In a similar way, when parents are deported they can choose to take their children with them or not. The choice is entirely the parents, not the administration.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) JUNE 9, 2014

The Obama administration on Monday announced it is designating a third U.S. military base for emergency housing of children immigrating illegally into the United States without parents or relatives, as the cost of caring for these minors escalated.

Senior administration officials, who asked not to be identified, told reporters that an Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will initially hold 600 “unaccompanied minors” and eventually will be able to accommodate up to 1,200.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN0EK1VM20140609

In the above case the detention facility was being constructed for unaccompanied children apprehended at the border. We can speculate about how the children came to be separated from their parents, but it was clearly before they were apprehended by US authorities, and there is no indication that US authorities were in any way responsible.

Under all previous administrations there will have been rare occasions when parents have to be taken into federal detention (perhaps because they are wanted for an unrelated federal crime, or are suspected of terrorism) and in those circumstances their children will be removed from them, since the law mandates that. The difference is that the Trump administration has a policy of taking all detained immigrants into federal detention, which requires them to be separated from their children.

To summarize: The Trump administration forcibly separates children from their families whenever they are apprehended, and detains them separately. The Obama administration did not do that. The only separation was when undocumented parents were deported they were offered the choice to take their children with them or leave them behind (if there was someone to care for them). Some parents chose to leave their children behind.

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    "By no reasonable standard did the Obama administration have a policy of separating minors." You basically said the parents had to leave, and the only other option was to take their child, a US citizen with them? That sounds like a pretty reasonable claim to "separating minors". By extension, if I gave you the option of "separating from your child" or me ruining the child's life by sending them to a country where they don't speak the language and have no opportunity or grounding would you say that I was meaningfully separating you from your child? They're not parting by choice, it's duress. – Evan Carroll Sep 23 at 17:32
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    You may think it's a bad choice, but it's a choice, and in giving the parents a choice it is fundamentally different from what the Trump administration is doing. – DJClayworth Sep 23 at 17:37
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    No, I don't think it's a choice at all in any meaningful sense of the word. If this was a contract and you were threatening my kids, the contract would have been negotiated under duress. I wouldn't hold that to be valid. You say under no "reasonable standard" but you seem to think that it's reasonable to say the choice is either to take your kid without respect for the kid's desires or best outcome, or to .. be separated.. – Evan Carroll Sep 23 at 18:06
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    If it's your political view that all parents of US-born children should be allowed to immigrate to the US then you are entitled to it. But you are conflating two different things. – DJClayworth Sep 23 at 18:10
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    @EvanCarroll Your second statement mis-states the situation, based on the quotes in this answer. The only children involved were those who were born in the US, and thus not subject to incarceration or deportation. Children who had themselves entered the country illegally were (according to the evidence presented) not separated from their parents; whereas they are under the Trump policy. A correct description might be "The Obama administration separated undocumented migrant parents from documented US-born children, except those that took their children to be deported with them." – IMSoP Sep 25 at 15:33

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