The South Carolina senator repeatedly spouted lies about immigration in a recent interview.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) in a media appearance on Monday unleashed a torrent of false and misleading claims about immigration and family reunifications.
The South Carolina senator went on Fox News to push a series of xenophobic talking points popular at the moment with Republican lawmakers who claim there is a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, with large numbers of immigrants entering the country.
"I've never seen so many incentives for illegal immigration as I see today," he claimed. "If you're 16 and younger, we're gonna make sure you never leave the country. If you have a family member here illegally, we're gonna pay to reunite the family illegally. That incentivizes more illegal immigration."
Seemingly referring to the criticized "Remain in Mexico" policy, enacted under Donald Trump, which forced asylum seekers to wait on the opposite side of the U.S. border while their cases wound through the immigration courts, Graham continued, "Nobody stays in Mexico anymore. If you claim asylum in the United States, within about two weeks you're released into the United States without a court date"
"By the summer," he concluded, "we're gonna have 150,000+ [immigrants coming into the country] a month. If they don't change policy... it's only gonna get worse."
The United States, largely with the help of immigration lawyers and advocacy groups, has been focused on reunifying families separated under various draconian policies implemented by the Trump administration for some time. The latest push appears to be focused on ensuring minors and family units apprehended at the border, who were previously often split up and sent to separate facilities with little information on how to find one another, are released quickly according to federal mandates that require children to be held no longer than 72 hours at a border processing facility.
Graham's comments rely heavily on racist and debunked lies about immigration at the southern border, specifically the notions that the number of immigrants entering the country is unreasonably and dangerously high and that those being released are being reunited "illegally" in the United States, on taxpayers' dime.
The reality is far from what he suggests.
"We are hoping to reunite the families either here or in the country of origin," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained in a press conference on March 1. "And if, in fact, they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States."
Meanwhile, Graham's claim that the Biden administration is ensuring those 16 years and younger are kept here permanently is also misleading.
While a large number of unaccompanied immigrant children have been allowed to stay in the United States if they have a relative or sponsor, many minors are being turned back with their families under the Title 42 expulsion order, which prevents people from entering the country due to the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about public health.
As PBS NewsHour correspondent Amna Nawaz told the outlet on March 22, "Almost all of these people are Central American families with children, including small children, who tried to cross and were sent back under the COVID rules. They were just dumped at the foot of the bridge. And now they have been forced to stay [there], close to the foot of the bridge."
Many of those attempting to enter the country are asylum seekers fleeing threats of violence and poverty in their own countries. Some parents have resorted to sending their children alone, knowing they stand a better chance of reaching safety if they're apprehended unaccompanied.
For those children who arrive without families, Homeland Security's Office of Refugee and Resettlement vets sponsors and relatives in the country under a strict set of rules and background checks before releasing the minors.
Moreover, out of 60,000 immigration court cases of unaccompanied minors between 2005 and 2014, 51% resulted in a removal order, 20% ended in voluntary departure, and 29% of the time, the child was allowed to stay in the country, according to analysis by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse Immigration Project.
Additionally, Graham's claim that "nobody stays in Mexico anymore," is patently false. There are still thousands of immigrants in Mexico under the Trump administration's Remain in Mexico policy. And as previously noted, both families and individual adults are being turned back or sent back across the border under Title 42, a policy immigration advocates have decried as inhumane.
The South Carolina senator also claimed in his media appearance that asylum seekers were being released en masse without a court date. While that has been the case for some families, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the action applies only in "narrow circumstances."
"If families are going to be deported and they're awaiting deportation, they don't need a court date and they don't need a notice to appear because it has already been determined that they will be sent back to their home countries," said Psaki. "Sometimes that takes a minute to ensure there is proper transportation and steps in place to do that."
Graham's comments come as Republicans have been fiercely pushing xenophobic and fearmongering lies about immigrants and the U.S. immigration system, seizing on seasonal spikes of immigration and easement of draconian Trump-era policies that have in part led to an uptick in border apprehensions.
Among other things, they have renewed the racist "caravan" narrative, trotting out the strategy they used ahead of multiple prior elections to scare voters.
"A caravan a day," said Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson on March 8. "This is the tip of the iceberg of a crisis caused by President Biden's policies."
Graham reinforced that message on March 9, tweeting, "I fear that we will soon see caravan after caravan again forming in the Northern Triangle countries and headed toward the United States."
Trump himself previously pushed claims of a so-called "invasion" of immigrant caravans ahead of those elections, suggesting his promised border wall, which experts have panned as mostly ineffective and overly costly, would protect Americans. After the elections were over, mentions of the caravans seemed to all but disappear.
All of this messaging is rooted in racism, xenophobia, and has no basis in reality. Experts have said there's no "crisis" of the kind that the GOP lawmakers have described.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego published their analysis in the Washington Post on March 25 that suggested no evidence that changes from the Biden administration's policies have caused any sort of crisis.
Ramona Casas, director of the immigration advocacy organization Arise, also stressed in an interview with the Guardian that there is "no border crisis."
"To say so is political manipulation," she said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation