Professor Maryellen Fullerton on BBC News Discusses the President’s Actions on Immigration


Professor Maryellen Fullerton, an expert on asylum and refugee law, was recently a guest on a pair of BBC News programs: World Have Your Say and Newshour. On both programs, she discussed the president’s executive orders on immigration and refugees and building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Enforcement at the southern border is better now than it’s been for 45 years,” Fullerton said on Newshour. “So the concern about having an insecure southern border is one that’s really not based on facts. If you go back to the Nixon administration, the number of unauthorized immigrants that were apprehended at the southern border were roughly 320,000. And then in the 1980s and later the numbers went up as much as 1.7 million unauthorized migrants being apprehended in a year. By 2015, we were down to 170,000 people who were stopped at the southern border for entering without correct visas.”

Fullerton was asked about the legality of the president’s executive order to begin construction on the wall.

“I think it is unwise and unlikely to be effective, but I do agree that it is probably lawful," she said. “It’s a question of how you want to use your enforcement dollars – do you want smart enforcement or do you want a big construction project?”

On World Have Your Say, Fullerton also discussed the issue of refugee resettlement and the importance of remembering that the United States Refugee Act of 1980 has enjoyed longstanding support from both Democratic and Republican Congresses.

“It is not only a historical tradition and a moral tradition, but it’s current law,” she said.

“Since 1980 more than 3 million refugees have been resettled in the United States,” Fullerton said. “This has been pursuant to law and has improved the United States, and we haven’t had major security problems or criminal problems. It’s very much in the best interest of the United States that we continue that program in some way.”

Fullerton is a frequent speaker across the United States and in Europe. A prolific scholar, her most recent works include two co-authored casebooks, Forced Migration: Law and Policy and Immigration and Citizenship Law: Process and Policy, which are used by more than 100 law schools and universities throughout the United States. She is one of the founding editors of the Refugee Law Reader, a comprehensive online resource available in English, Spanish, French, and Russian for the rapidly evolving field of international refugee law. In addition, she headed several human rights missions in Germany for Human Rights Watch. She has been a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and has been active in projects providing support to Refugee Law Programs in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Listen to World Have Your Say (35:08).

Listen to Newshour (35:50).