Senator McSally Claims 90% of Asylum Claims Are Not Legitimate

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Martha McSally

KGUN 9 did a nice job with a special report on the whole border situation: a little heavy on the kinetic energy cinematically, but the interviews with stakeholders are worth the price of admission (about 40 minutes of your time).

What really grabbed my attention are the interviews with Arizona’s Senators (both women! Yay!), but especially this particularly pernicious lie from Senator McSally:

“More than 90% are not legitimate asylum cases.” Video above at 33:30.

I know this is not true, and is in fact, a deliberate lie on the part of the Senator, because a very similar lie was recently told by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He claimed that 80% of asylum claims are without merit. Among the far-Right of Congress the talking point is sometimes heard as between 80% and 90% of cases are without merit, or just 90% as McSally used the monstrous lie here.

The talking point has been debunked several times. It stems from the fact that only 20% of asylum cases are granted, therefore, 80% must be without merit, right? Wrong. There are a great number of reasons why an asylum case might be denied, from technical faults in the application process to outright fraud.

They all know that their talking point is misleading, at best. Unless, of course, they are brain dead. McSally is decidedly not one of the brain dead.

The liars who promote this talking point want you to believe that all those 80% are the result of fraud and lies on the part of asylum seekers. They usually make the claim more artfully than McSally did, calling the claims “without merit” or “meritless” (which is only true in the most narrow reading). McSally uses the rather more judgmental words not legitimate”, which is downright misleading, as it implies that the claims are themselves not authorized by law. The claims failed to be granted for any number of reasons, very few of which could be fairly said to be illegitimate in nature.

The clear implication of the liars who drop this lie (usually only in circumstances under which they are unlikely to be fact checked in the moment) is that 90% of the asylum seekers coming to our borders are liars who want to “skip the line” with their false claims. Planting that lie in Americans’ hindbrain is the whole point of this propaganda by the GOP.

This monstrous, callous lie needs to be called out when uttered. Reporters should be prepared for a lie like this when interviewing GOP pols on the asylum “national emergency”. Citizens also need to be ready to call out the lie when they hear it.

You lied about asylum seekers, Senator McSally. Are you going to set the record straight?

I imagine McSally might clarify that she only meant that 80% – 90% of asylum claims are ultimately denied. But I wouldn’t believe her. She chose her words too carefully and specifically; it was no mere slip of the tongue. No, I suspect that McSally actually believes that most or all of those turned down have fraudulent claims. Otherwise, how could she justify her utter indifference to the safety and welfare of those children and parents caught up in a dystopian story worse than most of us can fathom? These people must be a pack of liars and cheats here to suckle at the welfare teat who deserve what they get, right, Martha?

But that’s just the start of what is disturbing about McSally’s interview. At one point during the interview (prior to and after the lie I’ve highlighted) McSally lays out 3 simple “loopholes” we have to reform to fix the “crisis”.

  • allowing direct return of unaccompanied minors to non-contiguous countries
  • expanding current time limit of 3-5 days for holding families with minors in government custody
  • raising the standard for initially granting asylum review

The problem is that doing any of those is forbidden by current law, and there is no way a Democratic House would pass any such reforms. Some of those “reforms” may even conflict with our treaty obligations.

So, what is the Senator trying to accomplish here? She doesn’t have a bill pending to address these “loopholes” she’s talking about, so far as I’m aware. I could be ignorant. Or is the Senator just signalling the Administration to go ahead and violate those laws and close those simple “loopholes” in order to bring the “crisis” to an end?

In the end however, what I find most objectionable about McSally’s statements is not the miserable lie, but the utter indifference of the Senator toward asylum seekers. She frames the entire problem as if this humanitarian crisis is just a big inconvenience for the bureaucracy we have assigned to the task. The system is just overwhelmed by the numbers of people who are arriving. If only we could just change a few pesky rules designed to protect these people, then we could clear this mess right up. It’s telling that McSally doesn’t say we need to mobilize government to help asylum seekers, we need to mobilize government to get rid of the 90% who are “not legitimate” that much faster.

Senator, the vulnerable and desperate people who come and claim asylum are what matters. Practically nothing else about this does.