President Trump’s State of the Union Address Disregards U.S. Legal Obligations Toward Refugees and Asylum Seekers

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump made an appeal to the American public for national unity. However, his words on immigration were divisive. What the president cast as a national security crisis at the U.S. southern border is instead a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by his administration’s own policies. 

The president decried the ills of human trafficking, but the administration’s measures to choke off access to asylum have put the lives of Central Americans at grave risk. Under the administration’s new “Return to Mexico” policy, asylum seekers are being sent back across the border to wait in dangerous areas where traffickers can prey on them. What’s more, thousands of asylum-seeking children are currently being detained by the federal authorities, and conditions in detention have led to deaths, illness, and other abuses. 

“In his speech President Trump spoke powerfully about the liberation of Holocaust survivors. One compelling lesson of the Holocaust is that we must not shut our borders to refugees. The president claimed that he wants people to come to the United States legally, but his administration has closed the space for asylum seekers and others to seek protection through established and recognized legal pathways,” said Eric Schwartz, president, Refugees International.