CNN mischaracterized the Trump administration’s new rule on immigration less than an hour after it was announced Wednesday.
As the Daily Caller reported Tuesday night, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is establishing national standards for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family residential centers so that migrant family units can be held together for the duration of their immigration court proceedings. The new guidance effectively terminates the Flores agreement, a 1997 court ruling that has since been interpreted to mean that family units with children cannot be detained together longer than 20 days. (RELATED: Trump Admin Seeks To Terminate Flores Agreement Limiting Migrant Family Detention)
DHS officially announced the rule change during a scheduled 9:30 A.M. eastern press conference.
Just under an hour later, CNN misled viewers of its cable programming by suggesting that the new policy meant children could be held in cages indefinitely.
CNN anchor Jim Sciutto told viewers during the 10 am hour that the Flores agreement means families can be held a maximum of 20 days “in the facilities you see here.” The program then cut to a shot of an El Paso, Texas Border Patrol facility featuring migrants behind chain link fences and wearing foil blankets.
The clear implication of the CNN segment was that the family units could now be detained in such Border Patrol facilities beyond 20 days with the new DHS rule.
However, the Flores agreement applies to ICE facilities, not facilities run by Border Patrol.
In fact, family units stay in Border Patrol facilities for a relatively short amount of time — hours or a few days, depending on various factors — before they are either released or transferred to an ICE family residential center.
“Right now families average less than four days from apprehension to release or transfer to ICE. That is a reasonable average at current flow levels and with current operational procedures in place,” a DHS official explained to the Caller.
The residential centers that children and their family members would actually stay in for the duration of their court proceedings look very different than the CNN segment suggested, containing various amenities and programs intended for long-term stays.
DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan described the facilities during the Wednesday press conference as “campus-like settings with appropriate medical, educational, recreational, dining, and private housing facilities.”
“It was extremely concerning that the public was being presented with an inaccurate portrayal of the manner in which migrant families are held in ICE Family Residential Centers,” a DHS official said. “Border Patrol facilities used for initial family intake are very, very different than the ICE facilities the Flores regulation pertains to. This is an egregious misunderstanding of the issue.”
CNN continued to show Border Patrol facilities throughout the day while talking about the Flores rule on Wednesday, leading DHS to make several requests for CNN to quit using the misleading b-roll footage. In one instance, Acting ICE Director Matt Albence made an in-person request to CNN to stop using the footage and issue a correction while he was in the studio for an interview on the network.
CNN did not return a request for comment.