Just as dawn follows night, a new Brian Baker column must be followed with a long series of corrections. In his latest write-up for The Signal, “The Manipulation of the Hard Left” (June 27), he provided a litany of falsehoods about the immigration crisis and the Trump administration’s policy of jailing the children of peaceful asylum seekers.
He also decided to make a series of personal attacks against me, but I’ll ignore those insults and distortions. They are beneath our community newspaper.
Let’s stick to the topic and set the record straight:
BAKER LIE: “… they wouldn’t have been separated from their kids, which is exactly the same thing that happens to ANY lawbreaker who’s arrested for any crime.”
THE TRUTH: Crossing the border is a misdemeanor, seldom prosecuted in cases of asylum seekers. USA Today reports it usually comes with a fine of $10. This is like someone ringing your doorbell to ask for help after a car accident — and you calling the police to have them arrested for trespassing. American law has never mandated seizing the children of people charged with misdemeanors. Ask anyone who has been caught driving without a license, or shoplifting, or engaging in disorderly conduct. In America, the punishment fits the crime, and caging young children over a misdemeanor is cruel and unusual.
BAKER LIE: “They haven’t gone through any legal process to arrive here on our border. If they had, they wouldn’t be detained in the first place, would they?”
THE TRUTH: He asks the question that has an easy answer, if only he would do his homework. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake stated: “We are currently seeing cases where immigrant families seeking asylum are separated after lawfully presenting themselves at a U.S. port of entry.”
The people in question are not migrant workers sneaking across the border. They are refugees from war- and crime-ravaged countries, many from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, who have voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities to request legal asylum — a legal procedure.
I’ll cite the Immigration and Nationality Act, Sec. 208. (a) Authority to Apply for Asylum — “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 235(b).”
So yes, these people were following our rules, and were finding themselves torn from their families and jailed after Donald Trump’s administration issued merciless guidelines for enforcement. That brings us to another …
BAKER LIE: “This policy isn’t anything new at all … “
THE TRUTH: Yes, the prosecution of asylum seekers, the separation of families and the creation of internment camps for children is a new practice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy change May 7. Here is an excerpt from his remarks (note the word “new”): “The Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution. … In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.”
BAKER LIE: “The policy was set in place as a result of a consent decree signed in 1997, while Clinton was president … and these separations have been going on since then under Clinton, Bush, and Obama.”
THE TRUTH: He doesn’t name the case, but he is apparently talking about the “Flores” consent decree. And he’s dead wrong. That’s a 2016 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which orders the U.S. to keep detained immigrant families together for 20 days. It does not require that the children be separated and placed in internment camps after that. Instead, it actually orders the U.S. government to release rather than jail these children, often into the custody of other family members or foster care.
BAKER LIE: He writes about the Obama administration’s policy of processing the claims of asylum seekers and then releasing them on bond with a court date. In court, their request for asylum will either be accepted or denied. “Those illegal aliens for the most part never showed up in court for their hearings,” he writes.
THE TRUTH: PolitiFact addresses this falsehood with the headline: “Majority of undocumented immigrants show up for court, data shows.” The numbers change year to year, but overall the vast majority of border crossers show up for court. This is especially true of mothers and children.
Using Justice Department statistics, Syracuse University released a study showing 97 percent of women with children attended their immigration court hearing. Furthermore, 98 percent of children showed up for their court appearance. The Corpus Christi Caller Times, the major newspaper of Texas’ southern tip, highlighted this stat in its recent report.
The paper reported that absentia rates have been declining: “The study also states that the overall appearance rate for individuals released from ICE custody in 2015 was 77 percent.”
But those are all border crossing cases. Let’s stick only to asylum seekers. For that figure, we go back to PolitiFact, and data from the U.S. government’s Family Case Management Program, which was set up to match asylum seekers with case managers who helped guide these families through the legal process.
“Participants had a 100 percent attendance record at court hearings,” PolitiFact states. “They also had a 99 percent rate of check-ins and appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report.”
This agency won’t be enforcing that stellar figure any longer, however. Trump dissolved the program last June.
I’m not sure what conspiracy site or meme gives Baker his information, but time and again his columns are invalidated with easily disproven statements. He claims others are lying, when in fact he is the one spreading misinformation.
We need to deal with immigration intelligently, logically, and humanely. People’s lives and the safety of children hang in the balance. There are problems that do need to be fixed.
To accomplish that, we need to look at facts, figures, and the truth.
Anthony Breznican is a Santa Clarita resident.