Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told a Norwegian official about what he apparently thinks is the quaint American custom of asylum laws.

During a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump was asked a question about his empty threats to close the US-Mexico border. (Trump began by walking back his bluff, claiming that Mexico had suddenly managed to halt all traffic across its southern border.)

Eventually, his response came around to the fact that many of the people crossing the US border are not seeking to work illegally, as was more common in the past, but are openly seeking asylum. Turning to Stoltenberg, Trump said:

Every time — and you won’t even believe this, Mr. Secretary General — you catch somebody that’s coming illegally into your country, and they bring them to a court. But we can’t bring them to a court because you could never have that many judges. So they take their name, they take their information, and they release them. Now, we don’t release too many. We keep them. It’s called “catch and keep.” But you don’t have facilities for that. But you have to bring them through a court system. If they touch your land — one foot on your land: “Welcome to being Perry Mason. You now have a big trial.”

Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, probably could "even believe" Trump's description of the "worst, dumbest immigration system in the world," since Norway has the same system. Like virtually every other democracy including the United States, Norway has a robust process in place for applying for asylum. But under the law (of both countries), asylum seekers crossing the border and presenting themselves to law enforcement are not entering the country illegally.

Trump then turned to a favorite lie of his, saying that of asylum applicants given a hearing in court, "nobody comes back. I guess 1 percent — 1 to 2 percent, on average, come back. And nobody can understand why they come back."

In reality, about 90% of asylum seekers are present for their court date. The remainder includes applicants who have died or left the country voluntarily in the meantime.

Why should anyone care about this?

  • Presidents should know something about the laws it's their job to enforce.
  • It's wrong to lie for political purposes, especially about people who can't fight back.