WASHINGTON, June 18, 2018 — President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration began taking on openly racist undertones Monday, as his administration doubled down on false claims that Democrats in Congress are responsible for President Trump’s policy of detaining asylum seekers and separating children from parents, and that many of the people accompanying children to the border are smugglers and not their parents.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said during a National Space Council event in the White House East Room. “Not on my watch.”
Trump’s references to migrant camps and refugee holding facilities were widely seen on social media as not-so-subtle racial “dog whistles” directed to elements of his political base that see refugee-friendly policies as part of a conspiracy by global elites to implement a so-called “white genocide” by allowing nonwhite immigrants with higher birth rates into majority-white countries.
After repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for his own administration’s immigration policies, Trump said that his administration’s policy of separating asylum seekers from their children is rooted in “horrible laws” on immigration.
Separating families is Trump administration policy, not law
While the president is correct in saying that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – which makes “improper entry” into the United States a misdemeanor – became law after a Democratic Congress overrode then-President Harry Truman’s veto, none of the 12 subsequent occupants of the Oval Office have chosen to use the law by prosecuting asylum seekers.
Instead, improper entry into the U.S. was largely treated as a civil violation until this April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would prosecute anyone caught trying to enter the country illegally.
The change in policy stems from the Trump administration’s stated desire to deter immigrants from South and Central America from coming to the United States.
The president called the family separation that results from his own administration’s policy “so sad,” but once again echoed Europe’s resurgent nationalist movements when he said “a country without borders is not a country at all.”
The policy is necessary, Trump said, because immigrants are bringing “death and destruction.”
No evidence that increased immigration causes higher crime rates
Trump’s off-topic remarks were the second time in less than 12 hours that he made a false claim conflating immigration with crime.
After viewing a Monday morning Fox News segment about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political troubles stemming from nationalist resistance to her immigration policies, Trump tweeted: “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”
The president’s claim echoes those made by members of Europe’s resurgent far-right and white nationalist movements. But it is baseless in light of a recent report by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle revealed the country’s crime rate is at its lowest level since 1992.
The Trump administration also claims (without evidence) that many children are brought by smugglers, not parents
Later in the morning, he continued the tweetstorm by repeating that and other false claims in support of his administration’s immigration policies.
“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.,” Trump said.
Shortly after, he added: “It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”
The White House has claimed smugglers are posing as parents in large numbers since last month
Both claims are false, but they aren’t the first time he or members of his administration have claimed that a significant percentage of asylum seekers accompanied by children are traffickers posing as parents.
During a briefing call with reporters last month, Justice Department spokesperson Devin O’Malley noted that in Fiscal Year 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials saw a 315 percent increase in “individuals using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country” over the previous fiscal year.
Administration officials, including White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, suggested at the time that so-called “loopholes” in American immigration law entice human traffickers to pose as families with children.
“There’s nothing that would put more children in danger than for the United States to establish a policy – which these loopholes have gone a long way towards doing – that individuals traveling with minors will be spared from both civil and criminal consequences,” he said.
Miller, whose hardline anti-immigration stances date back to his high school days spent railing against the use of Spanish in his school’s morning announcements, said the policy Democrats want is one that spares anyone crossing the border from consequences if they have a child with them.
Such a policy is tantamount to “completely and totally open borders,” Miller said. And it “is already leading to horrendous hemispheric consequences” and is “driving… the child-smuggling trade.”
Although O’Malley promised more information to back up his claims, neither he nor Miller has responded to repeated requests for that information from BeltwayBreakfast.
But three weeks later, both White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley and White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp echoed Miller’s unsupported claims that Democrats are in favor of “open borders” and that most children accompanying asylum seekers are being trafficked.
“What Democrats want is a radical open border policy that lets everyone out into the interior of this country with virtually no documentation whatsoever,” Gidley said Monday while defending Trump’s child separation policy by repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for it. He added that the children are being “sent with these coyotes,” using a slang term for human smugglers.
Later on, Schlapp downplayed the harm to children caused by being forcibly separated from their parents and once again claimed that human traffickers are benefiting from “loopholes” in immigration law.
“The smugglers are the ones who are benefiting from this,” she said. “It’s human traffickers who are putting these children’s lives in danger.”
Schlapp promised to provide further information to back up her claims, but had not yet responded to a request for that information at our deadline.
As Migrant Caravan Heads North, Trump Blames Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras — And Democrats
WASHINGTON, October 22, 2018 — With the midterm elections two weeks away, President Trump is trying to keep his immigration policy at the front of voters’ minds by blaming Democrats and the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico for the continuing progress of a large caravan of migrants — which Trump said includes “unknown Middle Easterners” — making its way northward.
“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” Trump wrote, calling the caravan of roughly 6,000 people constitutes a national emergency.
He later added: “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”
Trump closed the three-tweet series by vowing to end or reduce foreign aid to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as those countries “were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.”
When BeltwayBreakfast asked one senior White House official how Trump expected those countries to stop people from emigrating — short of emulating the former East German Democratic Republic keeping people in with walls — the official was unsure but said an answer would be forthcoming.
Both the president and members of his team, particularly Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, have said repeatedly that immigration is a winning issue for them despite widespread outrage over the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy — which led to several thousand children being separated from their families at border crossings — and widespread support for a pathway to citizenship for so-called “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as children.
The caravan in question was organized by a group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders (not connected to the Washington, DC-based nonprofit) and consists of migrants who wish travel in one large group to protect themselves from the gangs and cartels who often target small groups and individuals. Organizers say the goal of most migrants traveling in the large group is to present themselves for asylum, either in Mexico or at a United States port of entry.
While such caravans are organized regularly, the coverage they’ve received in various media outlets has led to an inordinate amount of attention from the avid television watcher currently ensconced in the White House, who appears to have taken their very existence as a personal affront.
Trump has made immigration policy a centerpiece of his political strategy since the first day of his campaign for the presidency, when he railed against Mexican “rapists,” who he alleged were “bringing crime and drugs.”
Since becoming president in 2017, he has frequently lashed out at Democrats and blamed them for what his administration calls “loopholes” in immigration law that prevent the Department of Homeland Security from immediately deporting asylum seekers or keeping them incarcerated while their claims are pending.
Although Trump continues to suggest that migrants traveling in the group are looking to enter the U.S. illegally, asylum seekers who present themselves at a port of entry (and to a lesser extent to U.S. Border Patrol agents) actually avail themselves of a legal process that can result in their being given permission to remain in the United States.
Trump Administration Convinced Germany To Take Ex-Nazi Guard ‘On The Moral Ground’
WASHINGTON, August 21, 2018 — The United States’ Ambassador to Germany on Tuesday told reporters that the Trump administration was able to deport former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij because new German cabinet members were willing to accept him after years of previous refusals by Berlin.
“Germany saw it as a moral obligation…because this individual served in the name of the former German government,” said Amb. Richard Grenell during a conference call with reporters. “It was something that the new cabinet members accepted.”
Mona Ragheb, Senior Advisor for the Human Rights Law Section of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted the operation to remove Palij, said the removal operation “ensures the US will not become a safe haven for Nazis.”
She told reporters that the removal operation “was affected without incident” Monday night, and took place by way of “a specially chartered air ambulance which was appropriately staffed to address his medical needs. Palij arrived in Germany on Tuesday at roughly 8:00 a.m. local time.
The 95-year-old, born in what is now Ukraine, had been ordered deported by an immigration judge in 2004, but had remained in the United States because no country would agree to accept him.
But the empanelment of a new German cabinet changed things, Grinell said, combined with a decision by s by the Trump administration to make a moral argument for Germany accepting him rather than a legal one.
“In order to get him out of [the U.S.] it was important to…argue on the moral ground,” he added.
Grenell thanked Germany’s new foreign and interior ministers for their assistance in resolving the Palij case, which he said had been a priority of President Donald Trump.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Grinell said, “brought a new and different energy” to the longstanding negotiations over the former Nazi guard, while Interior Minister Horst Seehofer took “a creative look” at whether to admit Palij, who longtime Justice Department Nazi hunter Eli Rosenbaum said was the last known Nazi war criminal awaiting deportation from the United States.
Previous ex-Nazis who’ve been deported from the U.S. have been prosecuted upon their return to Germany. One notable example was that of John Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian-born Red Army soldier who participated in atrocities at the Sobibor concentration camp after volunteering to serve in the German army as a way of getting out of a POW camp.
Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident during his time in the United States, was deported to Germany in 2009 after several previous attempts at deportation and trial, including one resulting in a 1988 conviction for crimes against humanity in an Israeli court (which was later overturned). In 2011, a German court convicted him of 27,900 counts of murder, but because Demjanjuk died in 2012 before his appeal was heard, he was legally a free and innocent man at his death.
Whether Palij will be tried for his alleged crimes is up to the German government, though Grinell stressed that the Trump administration did not ask Berlin to commit to any legal process.
White House Spokesperson Says Trump Administration Won’t Rule Out Withdrawing From 1967 Treaty Governing Treatment Of Refugees
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2018 — President Donald Trump has not ruled out attempting to withdraw the United States from the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees or asking Congress to amend the 1980 Refugee Act to make it harder for South or Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution to be granted asylum in the United States, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Monday.
“I’m not ruling that out at some future date,” Shah said when asked if the president’s calls to deny due process to persons entering the country outside of ports of entry meant he was considering withdrawing from the 1967 treaty or amending the Refugee Act, both of which would be necessary for Trump to fulfill his goal of denying due process to persons claiming asylum in the United States outside of ports of entry.
Trump has ratcheted up his anti-immigrant rhetoric over the past week
The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has grown more strident in recent days as he has sought to save face after signing an executive order to end his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they claim asylum outside a port of entry. He has called American immigration policy “weak” because it entitles persons not present in the country legally to due process.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump wrote in a tweet Sunday, days after pouring cold water on the idea of hiring more immigration judges to deal with a 700,000 case backlog.
Shah denied that President Trump was calling for the denial of due process to those claiming asylum or for any change in United States law or policy that would contravene either the 1967 Protocol, which the Senate ratified 59-0, or the 1980 act signed into law by then-President Jimmy Carter.
Because the 1967 treaty was ratified by the Senate, it has the same force of law within the United States as the 1980 law.
Combined, the two require the United States to allow a person to claim asylum and gain legal status if they are “outside his or her country of residence or nationality, or without nationality, and is unable or unwilling to return to, and 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.”
But the president, Shah maintained, was referring only to changing the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and the 1997 consent decree in the case of Flores v. Reno, which prevents the United States from holding immigrant children form more than 20 days.
He repeated the administration’s claim that changes to the Flores consent decree and the TVPRA are necessary because the conditions created by both have resulted in “loopholes” which are attracting large number of South and Central American refugees with children to the United States, most of whom are claiming asylum.
“If you seek asylum, if you have a child, you are entitled to certain legal rights. If you do not, or do not have a child, there is legal authority to remove people without seeing a judge,” he said. “Between Flores and the 2008 law, there are series of loopholes that have allowed thousands of people to come here — whether fraudulent here or not — and stay here, and it’s attracted people to the country to exploit those laws.”
When it was pointed out that even persons who are present in the United States illegally are often entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge before being removed, Shah denied they have any such rights.
“I don’t believe that’s the case,” he said.
Experts say Shah is mistaken
But according to the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration advocacy group, Shah is wrong on both counts.
A fact sheet published on the organization’s website explains that immigration officers already have the authority to order the removal of “nearly any foreign national who arrives at the border without proper documents,” as well as any person who has been in the United States illegally for 14 days or less, so long as they are caught within 100 miles of the border or port of entry.
The AIC fact sheet also explains that even persons within those categories can claim asylum, and are entitled to both a “credible fear” screening interview and a hearing before an immigration judge if they do not pass the screening interview. If an individual passes the screening interview, they are usually detained until their cases are reviewed further by an immigration judge, or in some cases, released into the United States while their case is pending.
Shah said the president is simply calling for changes to be made to make it easier to remove people without valid claims because the system is too overloaded to handle the current number of requests.
“If we accommodate everybody’s request — fraudulent or not — we will be overrun with people coming here illegally,” he said.
But Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks said in an interview with BeltwayBreakfast last week that the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policies are putting the cart before the horse because even persons convicted of improper entry are still entitled to have asylum claims heard before they are removed.
Marks, who spoke to BeltwayBreakfast in her capacity as a past president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said the administration is wasting resources by putting people into the criminal justice system before processing asylum claims instead of simply devoting more resources to processing those claims in the first place.
“If it had been done in the reverse way, where the courts had been expanded to hear from the people who’d been apprehended, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” she said, adding that even after a person is convicted of improper entry into the United States, they are still entitled to have their asylum claim heard by an immigration judge.
Marks also pushed back against the administration’s assertions that a large number of asylum claims are fraudulent, noting that there is no evidence to back up such claims.
“It’s very troubling when we hear those accusations because there are no reputable statistics on the amount of fraud that exists in the asylum system. It is all anecdotal, and unfortunately, highly politicized,” she said.
“For as many people who say the system is riddled with fraud, you can find as many knowledgeable people and judges who will tell you that is not true. To say it is rampant is not fair to say unless there’s hard evidence of that, and to my knowledge as an expert in the field for more than 40 years, no such information exists.”