Fox News “The Ingraham Angle” host Laura Ingraham sparred with an immigration activist Friday over whether volunteer lawyers are dispensing legal advice to arriving asylum seekers or coaching them on what to tell U.S. customs officials.
Ingraham pressed Human Right First President and CEO Elisa Massimino over her group’s plans to provide legal aid to members of a migrant caravan from Central America who plan to cross the border from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego Sunday.
To get asylum, the migrants must first pass an initial hurdle of demonstrating that they have a “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries.
“Your lawyers are helping them recite the lines that are necessary to report asylum,” Ingraham said.
Massimino denied that: “That’s absolutely untrue.”
Massimino said Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, is one of the five most dangerous nations on earth.
“It’s not our problem,” Ingraham retorted. “It’s not our problem.”
Massimino disputed a survey cited by Ingraham indicating that the vast majority of people who leave Honduras do so for economic reasons, not to escape violence. That survey, conducted by a Jesuit social services organization in February, suggested that 82.9 percent of people who had a friend or relative leave in the last few years cited economic issues as the reason.
“Frankly, I think that reflects just a breathtaking misunderstanding of the people who flee,” Massimino said.
Ingraham said the standard advocated by Human Rights First would mean a virtually unlimited number of foreigners could claim asylum in the United States.
“You would concede that there are millions upon millions upon millions of people around the world who could state that they have a credible fear of, you know, crime, of persecution, of concern for their social group, whatever that means,” she said.
Under international law, asylum seekers are supposed to apply for protection in the first safe country they reach. A few people involved in the caravan have, in fact, applied for asylum in Mexico. But the vast majority have continued on toward the United States.
There is a simple reason, Massimino insisted.
“It turns that out Mexico is not a safe country for a lot of people who are fleeing, and in fact, we have documented cases of people being sent back, deported, to Mexico, and being killed there.”
“It turns that out Mexico is not a safe country for a lot of people who are fleeing, and in fact, we have documented cases of people being sent back, deported, to Mexico, and being killed there,” she said.
Massimino said her organization has not sent any lawyers to Mexico, but she added that she is glad American lawyers have traveled there to help the migrants.
The asylum seekers are not breaking any laws, Massimino added.
“It’s actually part of our law. And the system, as you know — you’re a lawyer — works best when people understand how it works, what the standards are,” she said. “So, better for people to know that in advance.”
Massimino added: “They are stepping up to help people in need. We’re Americans. That’s what we do.”
Ingraham questioned why the lawyers are not more interested in offering free legal advice to their fellow citizens.
“Well, we usually help Americans in need, correct? Mostly,” she said. “There are a lot of Americans in need across the country who can’t afford a lawyer.”