On Thursday morning, President Trump suggested many asylum-seekers are essentially crisis actors who are coached to say “passwords” to enter the United States.
“We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password,” Trump tweeted.
We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
Trump’s tweet came two days after a speech in which he alleged that asylum-seekers “have professional lawyers… and they tell these people exactly what to say.”
“They say, ‘say the following’ — they write it down — ‘I am being harmed in my country, my country is extremely dangerous, I fear for my life’ — ‘say that, congratulations, you’ll never be removed,'” Trump said. “This is being given to them by lawyers that are waiting for them to come up… in a way, that’s cheating.”
During that same speech, Trump suggested Democrats turn the other way as massive immigration fraud occurs because “they view that… as potential voters.”
“Some day, they are going to vote for Democrats,” Trump said of people crossing the border.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, someone is eligible for asylum if they meet the following criteria:
Any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
The words Trump is referring to are not “passwords” to stay in the country. Saying them to a border patrol officer does not guarantee that an asylum seeker will be allowed to stay. From fiscal year 2012 to 2017, the majority of asylum cases from Mexico, Haiti, El, Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala — the top five nationalities who had asylum decisions during that time — were denied.
Kara Lynum, immigration attorney and owner of Lynum Law Office, called Trump’s claims “patently absurd.”
“I’ve met with and represented these families and they do not say a ‘password’ or a ‘magic phrase’ to get asylum, she told ThinkProgress over email. “Anyone who spent 30 seconds with any of these people would realize immediately that they are truly fleeing for their lives.”
Trump isn’t the only administration official who has suggested asylum-seekers are crisis actors. During a CNN interview on Tuesday, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan claimed that asylum-seekers “are coached on what to say, they’ll say the right thing to get released from detention.”
Meanwhile, other administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, have encouraged asylum-seekers to try and enter the country through official ports of entry.
“If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions said on May 7.
That claim too appears to have been misinformation. The ACLU has sued the government on behalf of families who entered the country at ports of entry, and were separated from their children nonetheless.
Meanwhile, as Mother Jones and other outlets have reported, ports of entry don’t have enough resources to process all asylum claims, meaning families have to camp out for days on end just to have the opportunity to get their case heard. Many have been turned away.
Lynum told ThinkProgress that a policy change Sessions recently announced excluding victims of gang violence and domestic violence from asylum claims will only make the process more difficult and arduous.