During a speech at the White House on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that the U.S. border patrol would no longer release asylum seekers ahead of trial, but rather would hold them until their court date.
“We’re not releasing anymore – we’re going to no longer release, we’re going to catch, we’re not going to release, they’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place,” he told reporters.
He was expected to announce his plans to automatically deny asylum to migrants who try to enter the U.S. illegally between ports of entry — part of his latest election-season response to caravans heading toward the border.
Trump made several statements to support the newly-introduced border mandate, referencing violence between members of the caravans and law enforcement, the Mexican government offering jobs and refuge to asylum seekers and being turned down, among other things.
Following these claims, he promised an executive order sometime next week banning migrants from claiming asylum if they cross the border illegally.
We fact checked five statements made by the president during Thursday’s announcement. Here’s what we found:
“Anybody throwing stones, rocks, where they badly hurt Mexican soldiers, police. We will consider that a firearm.”
WATCH: Migrants throwing rocks will be considered a ‘firearm’: Trump
Trump made reference during his speech to clashes between the various migrant caravans making their way towards the U.S. southern border, and law enforcement.
On Oct. 19, members of the caravan and police in Mexico clashed after a standoff with migrants hurling rocks and shoes at police, who responded by firing tear gas at the crowds.
At least six police officers were wounded in the confrontation, according to the New York Times.
However, while there have been some altercations between the caravans and police resulting in injured officers, not all the information shared about these clashes is factual. This past week, photos were shared by the Twitter account @AMike4761 which were captioned, “Mexican police are being brutalized by members of this caravan as they attempt to FORCE their way into Mexico.”
The photos attached to the post, which eventually went viral and were later taken down, showed injured, bloodied, police officers. The photo was eventually determined to be from a 2012 incident involving students, not migrants.
“Under President Obama, they separated children from the parents, we actually put it so that didn’t happen.”
WATCH: Working on a system where children stay together: Trump on migrants
Trump said in a speech Thursday that it is not the Trump administration’s policy to separate families at the border, but was Obama’s policy.
That claim is misleading. While Obama’s policies did lead to some family separations, they were relatively rare, and nowhere near the rate of the Trump administration, according to politifact.
Trump’s border policy is modelled after Operation Streamline, a 2005 program from the George W. Bush era, according to politifact, but while that program referred all illegal immigrants for prosecution, it made exceptions for adults travelling with children.
However, with Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, separating families is not a bug of his policy but a feature to deter immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally. Neither Obama or Bush’s policies had the effect of widespread family separation, which is what Trump’s has resulted in.
“The government of Mexico has generously offered asylum, jobs education and medical care for people within the caravan. But many members of the caravan have refused these offers.”
WATCH: Mexico has offered asylum, but migrants have refused: Trump
Trump said that those in the caravan headed to the U.S. are not asylum seekers because they were offered protection in Mexico and “many refused these offers.”
“They’re not looking for protection, because if they were they would be able to get it from Mexico. This is no longer about safety, and asylum is about safety.”
Trump is correct that Mexico offered shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans who agreed to stay in the Mexican states of Chiapas or Oaxaca under a program called “You are home” as a first step toward permanent refugee status, but thousands of migrants refused the offer on Friday night, according to Time.
An asylum seeker is someone asking for political protection from another country, according to UNESCO. A refugee is someone who has been granted protection from another country.
“They never show up for the trial. By the time it comes, they’re gone,” Trump told reporters.
WATCH: Bigger, more emboldened caravans on the heels of one coming now: Trump
Trump has also said that asylum seekers don’t go to court dates set up on a later date from when they are initially processed.
While this is true, the president seems to have overstated this issue. Available data from the Justice Department from the last five years shows 60 to 75 per cent of non-detained aliens have attended their immigration court proceedings.
However, there is a significant number who did not show up and were ordered to be deported between 2012-16 — 140,000, in fact.
Furthermore, asylum seekers seem to cite fear as a key reason for missing their court dates. According to NPR, 700 per cent more deportation orders were issued in absentia for cases that began with “credible fear claims” than in 2009.
The Marshall Project, a non-profit journalism organization, pegged the number of immigrants issued deportation orders in absentia in 2016 at 39 per cent.
“This is totally legal. This is an invasion.”
WATCH: ‘This is an invasion, totally legal to stop it’: Trump on caravan
During the question-answer period after his speech, Trump told reporters that the actions his administration is taking to control illegal immigration at the southern border by detaining asylum seekers until their court date, is completely legal.
Going into his speech on Thursday, there was much speculation about the legality of a piece of legislation the president has pledged to unveil next week, which seeks to ban migrants from claiming asylum if they cross the border illegally.
U.S. immigration laws make clear that migrants seeking asylum may do so either at or between border crossings. But Trump said he would limit that to official crossing points. The U.S. also doesn’t have space at the border to manage the large-scale detention of migrants, with most facilities at capacity. But Trump said the government would erect “massive tents.”It’s currently unclear whether the president’s workaround will suffice, though it remains unknown what the executive order to be issued next week may contain.
— With files from the Associated Press