The Corner


A Dishonest Report on Immigration Detention

Last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, of which I’m a member, issued a report on immigration detention facilities entitled “Trauma at the Border: The Human Cost of Inhumane Immigration Policies.”

The report is misleading and dishonest. As such, it’s a worthy successor to the Commission’s 2015 report on immigration detention facilities. For this most recent report, however, we didn’t even visit a detention facility. That didn’t stop the Commission majority from expressing its outrage at immigration detention, based solely on media reports and a public comment hearing in Washington, D.C. attended primarily by immigration advocates. As I note in my dissenting statement, the Commission received testimony from a grand total of three former detainees, two of whom complained of treatment they had received during the Obama Administration.

The Commission report willfully misunderstands and mischaracterizes asylum claims, which, in essence, it assumes simply mean my home country isn’t the best place to live or the U.S. is better than my home country. Actually, grounds for asylum are limited and specified by statute. “My home country isn’t the best place to live” isn’t among them. The report also ignores the fact that most of those who initially pass a credible fear screening (which starts the asylum process) aren’t ultimately granted asylum. And only 44.5 percent of those who pass an initial credible fear screening even bother showing up in court to press their asylum claim. The majority simply vanish into the interior of the country, never to be seen again.

The report also paints an unjust portrait of our approach to detained children, baldly claiming that children “die in detention.” Even a cursory examination of the underlying facts reveal that Border Patrol agents sought medical care for children as soon as they showed signs of illness, and in one case where a child arrived at the border with a congenital heart defect, she was given medical care and surgery at not one, but two hospitals.

The Commission’s report is a pathetic effort to smear the president and the men and women who attempt to enforce our immigration laws. My dissenting statement in its entirety is here.


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