President Trump had a lot to say Friday about a landmark immigration ruling that limits how long the government can detain undocumented migrant children. Unfortunately, his argument took a turn for the incoherent as soon as he publicly called out a nonexistent judge for a 20-day cap on detaining immigrant minors.
Complaining about a build-up of migrants at the border while visiting Calexico, California, Trump blamed it on “some very bad court decisions,” singling out the “Flores decision” as a “disaster.”
“I have to tell you, Judge Flores, whoever you may be, that decision is a disaster for our country,” Trump said during a meeting with border patrol officials.
The “decision” the president was referring to was Reno v. Flores—otherwise known as the Flores Settlement—which protects migrant children from being held indefinitely in custody and grants them certain basic rights, like the right to food, medical assistance, drinking water, and toilets while in detention. The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to modify the agreement last year to allow for longer detention periods for minors.
The agreement was named not after a judge, but 15-year-old Jenny Lisette Flores, who fled El Salvador in the 1980s and was detained upon trying to enter the U.S. to live with her aunt. The teen was the lead plaintiff in the case, which came before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. It was settled in 1997, with Clinton-era Attorney General Janet Reno as the defendant.
The Flores Settlement has been an obstacle for the Trump administration since their family separation policy rollout and for current immigration policies, with lawsuits claiming the government is holding children indefinitely and violating the settlement.
Trump’s criticism of the imaginary judge sparked a barrage of mockery on social media, where many were quick to point out the flub came in the same week the president claimed windmills cause cancer and falsely said his father was born in Germany.
Earlier Friday, the president also claimed those approaching the southern border to seek asylum in the U.S. were running a “scam” during his visit to Southern California.
“Asylum, you know I look at some of these asylum people, they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything... and they say ‘I fear for my life,’ they’re the ones causing fear for life. It’s a scam, it’s a hoax,” he said, before fitting in a jab at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I know about hoaxes, I just went through a hoax,” Trump said, referring to his previous remarks claiming the “Russia hoax” was “finally dead.”
Trump also claimed the United States no longer had the capacity to accept more asylum seekers or undocumented migrants entering through the southern border.
“The system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum. Whether it’s anything you want. It’s illegal immigration,” Trump said, according to CNN. “Can’t take you anymore. Can’t take you. Our country is full… Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. So turn around. That’s the way it is.”