The establishment media spun a rally line from President Donald Trump on Thursday to claim the president was attacking immigrants who are credibly seeking asylum in the U.S.
Trump pointed out during a Thursday night rally in Michigan that asylum-seekers often appear “coached” when they meet with immigration agents because they are met at the border by lawyers who tell them how they can demonstrate “credible fear” of the conditions in their home countries.
“You have people coming up — you know, they’re all met by the lawyers, the lawyers. And they come out, they’re all met by the lawyers and they say, ‘say the following phrase: I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life,'” Trump said. “Okay, and then I look at the guy, he looks like he just got out of the ring, he’s the heavyweight champion of the world.”
“It’s a big fat con job, folks,” he said.
Mark Berman, a national reporter at The Washington Post, wrote incredulously, “The president, at a political rally, mocked people who come to the United States explicitly seeking asylum because they fear for their lives?”
The president, at a political rally, mocked people who come to the United States explicitly seeking asylum because they fear for their lives? https://t.co/U7lqIgmNnQ
— Mark Berman (@markberman) March 29, 2019
The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz similarly wrote, “Trump mocks asylum seekers, mimicking them.”
Trump mocks asylum seekers, mimicking them saying, “I am very afraid for my life, I’m afraid for my life.” Then he says, “it’s a big fat con job.”
— Colby Itkowitz (@ColbyItkowitz) March 29, 2019
Bob Ortega, a senior writer for CNN Investigations, shared a headline from Mediaite making the same claim.
President Trump Mocks Asylum Seekers Claiming Fear For Their Lives https://t.co/ZdiXbec61Y
— Bob Ortega (@Bob_Ortega) March 29, 2019
CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Wolf Blitzer joined in on the action, insisting that the president was mocking people genuinely in fear for their lives.
@jimsciutto spread the lie. “Trump appeared to mock immigrants seeking asylum. Seemed pretty clear.” pic.twitter.com/GQdfTMdfag
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) March 29, 2019
@wolfblitzer spread the lie: “You did hear … the president mock these asylum seekers” pic.twitter.com/08Jyv9ZdMj
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) March 29, 2019
While the president is incorrect to say that “all” asylum-seekers enter the U.S. under fraudulent circumstances, the media seemed to deliberately ignore his larger point about the issues with the asylum process.
The U.S. opens itself up to a high percentage of false asylum claims because of a loophole in immigration policy that allows immigrants to be released into the U.S. interior after an initial interview. (RELATED: Activists Send Lawyers To Border To Coach Migrants Seeking Asylum)
The bar for an asylum claim to be considered credible after an initial interview is relatively low, so many immigrants bank on passing that interview, gaining entry to the U.S., and then staying in the country indefinitely while declining to show up for subsequent asylum procedures.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says that 80 percent of asylum-seekers pass the first interview, while just 20 percent are ultimately granted asylum. Nielsen claims the people who aren’t granted asylum are either a “flat-out fraud” or are coming to the U.S. for economic reasons or to be reunited with family.
According to Department of Justice data, 34 percent of asylum claims result in flat-out denials, while 46 percent are closed for other reasons.
Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan told the Senate Homeland Security Committee in 2016 that asylum claims were on the rise at the southern border because immigrants learned they could say the “magic words” to get into the U.S.
The apparent problem is not restricted to immigrants from Central and South America.
NPR reported in 2018 that the federal government was reviewing the asylum status of tens of thousands of mostly-Chinese immigrants. The government honed in on “asylum mills,” groups of lawyers who they say coached the migrants years ago in order to “fraudulently obtain asylum in Manhattan’s Chinatown and in Flushing, Queens.”
“Authorities accused them of dumping boilerplate language in stories of persecution, coaching clients to memorize and recite fictitious details to asylum officers, and fabricating documents to buttress the fake asylum claims,” NPR explained.