Jan. 10, 2020 – Yesterday, we highlighted how the independent and highly-reputable TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) released a new report based on the government’s own data that finds that 99% of asylum-seekers who were released into America to pursue their cases attended all of their immigration court hearings.
As we noted, the finding eviscerates the GOP’s Big Lie. They call it “catch and release” — a fishing term intended to dehumanize asylum-seekers and paint them as people who abuse the system. As the below examples of the Big Lie being used demonstrate, the “catch and release” falsehood is the justification used to advance their cruel and relentless policy agenda to dismantle asylum:
- President Trump in a January 2019 speech: “They go into our country, and then you announce, ‘These are the laws,’ then you say, ‘Come back in three years for your trial,’” Trump told a crowd in a January speech. “Tell me what percentage of people come back. Would you say 100 percent? No, you’re a little off. How about 2 percent? And those people you almost don’t want ’cause they cannot be very smart.”
- Vice President Mike Pence in a June 2019 CNN interview: “What we want: To end the days where people believe they can come into the country, make a claim of asylum from oppression or deprivation or violence in Central America or elsewhere, and then be released into the country on their own recognizance only to vanish into the nation … Ninety percent of the people never show up for their hearing in the months ahead. … The overwhelming majority, plus-90 percent, don’t show up.”
- Stephen Miller in an August 2019 Fox interview: “Ending catch and release is the sole humane course of action…”
- Former Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan in a June 2019 Senate hearing: “[W]e do see too many cases where people are not showing up…”
In the name of ending ‘catch and release,’ this administration has mounted a cruel and relentless campaign to deter asylum-seekers and deny access to due process. But it’s all based on a falsehood. Instead of absconding, asylum seekers attend court hearings at a rate of 99%.
We don’t need to gut asylum, keep vulnerable people in detention, and subvert due process. We don’t need to keep people in life-threatening conditions. Instead, we need to respect our law that views asylum as a legal right. We need to ensure a fair and efficient process, complete with family support, legal assistance and case management systems. We need to work with, rather than bully our neighbors to devise a regional strategy for safe haven and resettlement opportunities. And we need to invest in the source countries in order to mitigate, over time, the violence and societal breakdown that spurs out-migration.
For many, asylum is a matter of life and death. They deserve a fair chance to make their case, not cruelty based on the Big Lie of ‘catch and release.’