President Donald Trump made an outrageous claim during a Thursday afternoon briefing on immigration. His assertion: Only 3 percent of undocumented immigrants released while their asylum cases are pending ever show up for their court hearing.
“We’re not letting them into our country, and they never show up. Almost like a level of 3 percent,” the president said Thursday. “They never show up for the trial, so by the time their trial comes, they are gone.”
Wrong. The government’s own data even proves that statement is incorrect. According to a Justice Department report from the Executive Office For Immigration Review, in 2017 that number was actually 89 percent, and has consistently remained high. In 2016 it was 91 percent and from 2014 to 2015, it was higher than 93 percent.
This data is also backed up by the American Immigration Council, which concluded that from 2001 to 2016, 90 percent of asylum-seeking families show up at the courthouse. Even the Republican-friendly Center For Immigration Studies concedes that these families consistently follow the rules and meet their court dates.
The Trump administration has used the false argument that “catch and release” — the process of allowing undocumented immigrants to live in the U.S. while their cases are ongoing — doesn’t work in order to justify revising the Flores Settlement to detain children and families indefinitely.
Trump’s speech Thursday, which came less than a week before the midterm elections, was a dangerous attempt at shoring up the Republican base at the expense of asylum-seeking immigrants.
Seeking asylum at a port-of-entry is a completely legal act, yet the Trump administration has consistently attempted to thwart any and all form of immigration, legal or otherwise.
In the Thursday immigration speech the president described asylum-seekers as making “meritless” claims and receiving “coaching” from their attorneys on what to say.
“My administration is finalizing a plan to end the rampant abuse of our asylum system — it’s abused — to halt the dangerous influx, and to establish control over America’s sovereign borders,” the president said. “We got borders.”
“Under this plan, the illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into our country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum […] Those who choose to break our laws and enter illegally will no longer be able to use meritless claims to gain automatic admission into our country. We will hold them — for a long time, if necessary.”
That the Trump administration would implement such harsh measures on immigrants wanting to legally emigrate to the U.S. should come as no surprise, given the administration’s well-documented history of abuses towards asylum seekers. A recent Amnesty International report found the administration may have violated international human rights law when it turned away asylum seekers at ports-of-entry.