With days to go before the midterm elections, President Trump continues to
ratchet up his rhetoric on immigration. The president’s latest target is
asylum-seekers, whom he accuses of exploiting “loopholes” in U.S. immigration
In a televised speech from the White House last Thursday, Trump threatened to
close the Southwest border to asylum-seekers — including the latest group of
Central American migrants making their way through Mexico — unless they
present themselves at official ports of entry.
But refugee and asylum experts say his plan would violate U.S. law. They say the
president’s remarks about asylum were riddled with inaccuracies and misleading
statements intended to stoke fear of immigrants and drive the president’s
supporters to the polls.
The total number of migrants apprehended at the Southwest border was actually
down slightly last year, to about 521,000, and remains far below the kind of
apprehension numbers that were routine in the 1990s and 2000s.
Under U.S. law, migrant families who have requested asylum are not considered
illegal immigrants. These migrant families are generally released to join relatives in
other parts of the country and will be issued a Notice to Appear in immigration
court for their asylum hearing.
The majority of asylum-seekers do show up to court. According to the
Department of Justice statistics for the 2016 fiscal year, only about 2 in 5 cases
were decided in absentia.
The president has claimed repeatedly, without evidence, that the migrants
include dangerous criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners.”
But reporters on the ground say the migrants comprise mainly women and
children who are fleeing from violence and extreme poverty in Central America.
For more information go to KBPS public broadcasting at www.kbps.org, “Fact
Check: Migrants are not overwhelming the southwest border”, Joel Rose/NPR.