Late Thursday afternoon Trump gave a speech and then answered questions from the press about policy regarding the caravan of illegal immigrants headed towards the U.S. I listened to it at the time, and here’s the text of his remarks.

After hearing the speech, I wasn’t surprised by the spin given by this CNN headline about it: “Trump says he will restrict asylum, claims troops will shoot at rock throwers.”

Oh did he, now?

Well, I didn’t hear him do either of those things, at least not in that way. And I believe the transcript bears that out.

On the first point, I heard him say that he would apply the asylum laws in a timely and more efficient manner, by detaining caravan arrivals rather than releasing them into the general population to very often disappear by the time their hearings are held. I heard him say that, at present, most people who do show up for their hearings are denied asylum, and that he believes the bulk of the new arrivals in the caravan will also be denied asylum. He said people in the caravan claiming asylum will still get hearings, but that the hearings will occur sooner and that “catch and release” will no longer happen in the meantime.

On the second point, this is what Trump said about how the military would treat the caravan:

And we’ve already dispatched, for the border, the United States military. And they will do the job. They are setting up right now, and they’re preparing. We hope nothing happens. But if it does, we are totally prepared. Greatest military anywhere in the world, and it’s going to be, and is now, in great shape. No longer depleted like it was when I took over as the President of the United States.

Later, in the press conference portion of the appearance, this exchange occurred:

Q With the military, do you envision them firing upon any of these people?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope not.

Q Could you see the military (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope not. It’s the military — I hope — I hope there won’t be that. But I will tell you this: Anybody throwing stones, rocks — like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico — we will consider that a firearm. Because there’s not much difference, where you get hit in the face with a rock — which, as you know, it was very violent a few days ago — very, very violent — that break-in. It was a break-in of a country. They broke into Mexico.

That was the sum total of discussion of the issue. Compare that answer to the CNN article’s attention-grabbing headline “claims troops will shoot at rock throwers.” There’s a difference.

Later on in the CNN article you can see this:

A White House aide had said earlier Thursday that Trump would unveil an executive action requiring migrants to request asylum at legal points of entry and preventing them from claiming asylum if they are caught crossing the border illegally. Although the President referenced such a policy in his speech, he offered no defense of how such a plan, once finalized, could be legal, given laws presently allowing migrants the right to claim asylum once they are on American soil.

Well, perhaps the reporters might have actually looked it up. This (from July of 2017) might be the sort of thing that such an idea could be based on:

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), supreme court for the European Union (EU), has ruled that would-be migrants must seek asylum in the first country they reach.

CNN, one of the many media outlets reporting on the ruling, says this: “The European Union’s top court has ruled that refugees must continue to seek asylum in the first European country they reach, even in exceptional circumstances like the migrant crisis of 2015.” What they should have said is “especially in exceptional circumstances like the migrant crisis of 2015”, because it is during crises that having bright-line guidelines to follow become most important…

Mexico has an affirmative obligation to accept and make a judgment about the Hondurans’ claims to asylum because it, too, is a signatory to the U.N. Convention. Just as surely, the aliens themselves had an affirmative obligation to seek safe haven there. Consider that San Diego ports of entry are on the extreme west coast of the continent, whereas Honduras sits considerably east and south. A quick look at a map shows that this family spent considerable time traversing nearly the whole of Mexico and had plenty of time and opportunity to seek out Mexican officials to seek asylum. That they didn’t do so is notable.

How distressing that the Europeans, who have made such a muddle over their own illegal mass migration responses, have gotten this issue right while the leaders in our homeland security organizations still don’t seem to get it.

The problem is that here in the United States this international principle of demanding that migrants claim asylum or refuge at the first safe country they reach is mostly honored in the breach. Everyone pays lip service to it, but no one, least of all our pusillanimous political or government leaders, really expects America to demand that the international convention be scrupulously adhered to, either by those who are allegedly seeking shelter from harm, or by the countries those migrants use as doormats en route to America as the nation of economic choice.

So that might be the legal basis for saying that future asylum-seekers must “request asylum at legal points of entry” and be prevented “from claiming asylum if they are caught crossing the border illegally.”

But in his speech Trump also discussed hearings on asylum for the detained people who try to come here as part of the caravan, so it seems that Trump was not saying that people in this particular caravan wouldn’t be able to claim asylum once here. I’ve cued up the relevant passage from his remarks, and I encourage you to watch the whole speech for yourself as well:

In addition, Trump clarified the general process of seeking asylum:

Asylum is not a program for those living in poverty. There are billions of people in the world living at the poverty level. The United States cannot possibly absorb them all. Asylum is a very special protection intended only for those fleeing government persecution based on race, religion, and other protected status.

It certainly would be nice if we could trust the media to report comprehensively, objectively, and intelligently on such matters, wouldn’t it?

[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]