GOP congressman: It’s OK to detain immigrants indefinitely because 9/11 happened

"In today's world, we got 3,000 Americans dead from 9/11."

Credit: Screengrab via Fox News
Credit: Screengrab via Fox News

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) argued during a Fox News interview on Friday that 9/11 justifies the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of asylum-seekers.

“In today’s world, we got 3,000 Americans dead from 9/11,” Norman said. “We’ve got threats, we’ve got shootings, we’ve got issues that we got to address. I’m for the American people. We need to take care of our citizens first instead of just having complete open borders.”

Of course, none of the 9/11 hijackers were asylum-seekers. And despite what Norman would have you believe, the process of being granted asylum involves much more than just showing up the at the border. Before they’re released, asylum-seekers typically have to pass a “credible fear” hearing proving they would be in grave danger if they returned to their home country, pending a hearing.

But Norman doesn’t seem to think much of the asylum process, which he denigrated earlier in the interview. In response to the suggestion that legal hearings and ankle bracelet monitors could help the government track asylum-seekers while their cases are being processed, Norman said he thinks even that level of oversight is insufficient, because “if you go down to the border — and I’ve talked to a lot of the congressman who have — it’s just a mass of people.”


“How do you prove that credible evidence that they are in danger if they go back to their country? It’s subjective,” Norman said. “You have a lot of criminals, you have a lot of people who just want to get into this country, and how do you prove that? You don’t.”

Norman’s interview came in response to a federal judge’s ruling on Monday that determined the government may not indefinitely detain asylum-seekers. The lead plaintiff in the case is a teacher from Haiti named Ansly Damus who has been confined in Ohio for essentially the entire time Trump has been in office.

NPR provides more context:

[Damus] fled his homeland fearing violence and political persecution and asked for asylum in the United States. An immigration judge granted him asylum not just once, but twice. But Damus remains locked up indefinitely as the government appeals those decisions.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, in his 38-page opinion, said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated its own procedures by not granting Damus release under what’s known as humanitarian parole.

“This Opinion does no more than hold the Government accountable to its own policy, which recently has been honored more in the breach than the observance. Having extended the safeguards of the Parole Directive to asylum seekers, ICE must now ensure that such protections are realized,” Judge Boasberg wrote.

Damus’s lawsuit was brought by the ACLU. In it, the ACLU argues that while the Obama administration released asylum-seekers who were determined to have a credible claim following the “credible fear” interview, the Trump administration has not.


“We had a clear record, as the court noted, showing that in these five ICE field offices there really was a very clear pattern in what previously resulted in release of asylum seekers at a rate of ninety percent based on individualized consideration really dwindled down to near zero,”ACLU deputy legal director Cecillia Wang told NPR.

The Trump administration recently announced a policy change excluding victims of gang violence and domestic violence from making asylum claims. Trump has repeatedly suggested that asylum-seekers are essentially crisis actors who are coached to say “passwords” to enter the United States — a characterization that immigration attorneys strongly object to. In reality, these people are typically fleeing desperate situations and extreme violence.

Trump administration officials have demanded Congress change laws to give them the power to indefinitely detain migrants who cross the southern border.