Trump Claims Only Immigrants “With The Lowest IQ” Show Up For Court Hearings In Appalling Debate Rant

Joe Biden also blasted President Trump over a new report that lawyers cannot find the parents of 545 migrant children separated from their families under the Trump administration, saying, “it’s criminal.”

President Trump at the final presidential debate on October 22, 2020 in Tennessee. (Getty Images)
President Trump at the final presidential debate on October 22, 2020 in Tennessee. (Getty Images)

At the final presidential debate before voting concludes on November 3, President Trump deflected blame when pressed about his administration effectively orphaning 545 migrant children, falsely claiming they came to the U.S. with “coyotes and cartels,” and claimed only undocumented immigrants “with the lowest IQ, they might come back” to attend their immigration hearings.

Moderator Kristen Welker asked President Trump Thursday night about a disturbing report released Wednesday that said lawyers could not find the parents of 545 migrant children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Mr. President, your administration separated children from their parents at the border, at least 4,000 kids. You’ve since reversed your ‘zero tolerance’ policy. But the United States can’t locate the parents of more than 500 children. So how will these families ever be reunited?” Welker asked.

Trump responded that the “children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, during the debate, and immigrant rights groups on Twitter immediately fact-checked his claim.

“Coyotes didn't bring them over. Their parents were with them,” Biden said in his rebuttal. “They got separated from their parents and it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

Biden continued, regarding migrant parents: “Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they cannot find over 500 of sets of those parents. And those kids are alone. Nowhere to go, nowhere to go. It's criminal. It's criminal.”

Trump claims only undocumented immigrants “with the lowest IQ” show up for court proceedings

On the topic of immigration, Trump went on to make an appalling claim that only people “with the lowest IQ might” show up for their scheduled immigration court hearings.

He was talking about the “catch and release” policy, which allows undocumented migrants who are intercepted at the border to stay in the U.S. while they wait for hearings on their cases. 

“We have to send ICE out and Border Patrol out to find them. We would say come back in two years, three years, we’re going to give you a court case, you need Perry Mason—when you say they come back, they don’t come back, Joe. They never come back. Only the really....” Trump drew the last word out, before stopping himself and then saying, “I hate to say this, but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back.”

Biden was visibly dismayed by the comment, closing his eyes and shaking his head in response before Welker asked that they move on.

Trump claimed that “less than 1%” of immigrants in these cases show up for their court hearings, which is not true.  A majority attend their hearings; Politifact says “around 60-75% of non-detained migrants attend their immigration court proceedings.”

Journalists and immigrant rights advocates on Twitter were quick to point out the appalling and blatant  racism in Trump’s claim:

Trump claims migrant children were “well taken care of” after being separated from families

Lawyers appointed by a federal judge to search for the parents of the separated children have yet to track down the parents of 545 children, and about "two-thirds of [them] are believed… to be in their respective countries of origin,” according to a court filing Tuesday by ACLU and Department of Justice officials.

Though Welker said Trump ended his “zero tolerance” policy, reporters have noted that family separation has continued in 2020, with the administration using the COVID-19 pandemic as a cover.

At the debate, Trump tried to pivot away from the story and kept accusing Biden of having a role in the Obama administration “building the cages” that Trump has used for family detention, in often miserable conditions. Obama administration officials have said in the past that they built detention centers in order to house an influx of migrants, including unaccompanied teenagers—but they did not use them to cage children forcibly separated from their parents by the U.S. government.

As NPR noted, there’s “one key difference between the two policies: the Obama administration detained apprehended immigrant children with their parents, while the Trump administration separated children from their parents,” which is what Welker was asking about at the debate Thursday night.

Trump also tried to defend family separation and the detention of children by saying they were “well taken care of” in these facilities, though human rights organizations have published reports on the dismal conditions at many ICE detention centers.

Biden addresses the record number of deportations under the Obama administration

Welker also pressed Biden on his time in the Obama administration and their record on immigration reform. Biden acknowledged, “We made a mistake. It took too long to get it right.”

He continued: “I’ll be president of the United States, not vice president of the United States. And the fact is, I’ve made it very clear within 100 days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. All of those so-called DREAMers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified again, to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship.”

In a contrast with Trump’s frequent depiction of immigrants as “rapists and criminals,” Biden said, “Many of them are model citizens. Over 20,000 of them are first responders out there taking care of people. During this crisis, we owe them. We owe them.”

There was a record number of deportations under Obama—so much so that immigration reform advocates called him the “deporter-in-chief.” Many of those advocates praised Biden for owning up to the mistakes.