WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump delivered a sharply worded speech on immigration Thursday, vowing to hold undocumented immigrants in detention until they could be deported and to block asylum seekers from claiming asylum if they are caught crossing the border outside of legal ports of entry.
Both measures are expected to be met with lawsuits in federal court. Under current law, immigrants are allowed to make a claim for asylum anywhere in the United States, no matter how they entered.
And the Trump administration would be in violation of international asylum lawas well, said Scott Anderson, a David M. Rubinstein fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution.
"U.S. treaty obligations require the United States to extend asylum to individuals who qualify as refugees if they are found in the United States or at any U.S. border, regardless of whether they arrived their legally or not," said Anderson. "The same treaties also prohibit the United States from expelling qualified individuals or returning them to their country of origin absent certain extraordinary circumstances."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the administration plans to establish its legal authority to change asylum law through an executive action.
Statement: Immigrants are now released from detention solely because the government does not have enough space to detain them. To fix this, Trump vowed to vastly expand detention space with so-called tent cities at the border.
Fact: There are reasons besides lack of space that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not permitted to detain migrants indefinitely. A 2001 Supreme Court decision in a case known as Zadvydas limited the amount of time ICE can hold adult immigrants in administrative detention to six months. And a federal court decision that was upheld in 2015, known as Flores, limits the amount of time children can remain in ICE detention to 20 days.
Statement: The Trump administration was continuing an Obama-era policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.
Fact: The Obama administration only separated children from their parents if the parent was going to be charged with a crime, not including charges of crossing the border illegally. Last spring, under "zero tolerance," the Trump administration changed this policy to begin charging, and therefore separating, parents whose only crime was crossing the border illegally. This significantly increased the numbers of separated parents and children from roughly 100 a month to more than 1,300 a month.
Statement: There are 20 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Fact: Although it is impossible to know exactly how many there are, the Department of Homeland Security estimates this number to be closer to 12 million.
Statement: Construction on the border wall is underway.
Fact: While there has been some fence building and repairing of existing structures, no concrete has been poured on a new border wall.