Fact Check: The Administration’s Immigration Claims

Rick Larsen
Jan 9 · 7 min read

Tonight, the president will address the nation to discuss what he calls a humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border. Whatever the president says, tonight the focus should be on the need to reopen the government, put people back to work and give federal workers and federal contractors the back pay to which they are entitled.

Since President Trump took office, the Washington Post Fact Checker team has documented 7,645 false or misleading claims made by the president. Of those claims, 1,130 were about immigration.

From claims of terrorists pouring over the southern border to claims about who will pay for the wall, many of the statements the administration has made about immigration are simply false.

Before his address tonight, it is important to lay out some of the facts.

Claim: There can be no real border security without the wall — President Trump.

Fact: There can be border security without a wall.

Congress has continually invested funding in border security, which increased from $25 million in 1996 to $1.571 billion in 2018. Democrats as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have called for more technology and additional personnel to secure the southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Last year, the Senate Homeland Security Committee released a report based on CBP documents that found 902 “capability gaps” on the Southwest border. Fencing was mentioned as a possible solution to address these gaps less than four percent of the time.

The president should focus on increasing technology and personnel to secure the southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Claim: The situation on the southern border is a humanitarian crisis — Vice President Pence.

Fact: The situation at the border is a crisis of the president’s making. The administration’s actions speak louder than words.

The president has repeatedly proven he does not view the situation on the border as a humanitarian crisis. The president has manufactured this crisis through his own immigration policies that have torn families apart, jailed children and limited the ability of those who need help to seek refuge in the United States.

Claim: U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 4,000 terrorists at the U.S. — Mexico border last year — President Trump

Fact: This is not true. The real number is six, not 4,000. According to CBP, during the first half of 2018, agents arrested six known or suspected terrorists along the southern border.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 85 percent of individuals on the watch list who tried to enter the United States attempted to enter the country by air.

A 2017 State Department report found there was “no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.”

Claim: 3,000 special interest individuals, people with suspicious backgrounds that may suggest terrorist connections were apprehended at our southern border. — Vice President Pence.

Fact: This is misleading. Special interest aliens are different from suspected terrorists. They are people who come from countries with terrorist threats or who have travel patterns that suggest a connection to terrorism. According to the CATO Institute, between 1975 to 2017 only seven special interest aliens were convicted of planning terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. None of these individuals crossed from Mexico.

The seven individuals convicted of planning terrorist attacks crossed the northern border or jumped ship in U.S. ports.

Claim: The president has repeatedly used MS-13 as a justification for building a wall on the southern border.

Fact: President Trump is exaggerating the threat from MS-13 to justify building his wall.

In fiscal year 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 181,000 individuals. Less than three percent of these arrests were gang-related and MS-13 made up 796 arrests.

CBP data from 2012 through 2017 shows one of every 5,000 minor migrants were “confirmed or suspected” to have an MS-13 affiliation.

While the ICE arrests are important, using MS-13 as a justification for building a wall is misleading. The president should be more concerned with addressing humanitarian issues in El Salvador, where MS-13 travel from.

Claim: 60,000 people attempt to come into the U.S. illegally every month — Vice President Pence

Fact: The number the administration is using is misleading and includes those who present themselves at legal ports of entry.

In November, more than 62,000 individuals were apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the southern border. 10,600 of these individuals presented themselves at legal U.S. ports of entry and were ultimately denied admission. Additionally, this data only points to one month of crossings and does not paint a picture of the entire year’s data.

Claim: Mexico is paying for the wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal — President Trump.

Fact: The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) does not include any language that Mexico will pay for the border wall.

Not only is the USMCA not the law, but there are no provisions within the agreement that specify funds from Mexico to finance a border wall. Mexico has said it will not pay for the wall. The president now wants to put the wall funding on the backs of all Americans, including those he has put out of work in the shutdown.

Claim: A wall along the Mexico border will stop the drugs from coming into the U.S. — Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Fact: This is not how drugs get into the country. The Drug Enforcement Agency found that most of the drugs smuggled into the U.S. through the southern border pass undetected through legal ports of entry. A wall would not stop these drugs from coming across the border.

A 2015 Drug Enforcement Agency report found that drugs smuggled across the southern border by Mexican cartels mostly come through legal ports of entry, hidden inside of passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers.

Smugglers have also used boats and aircraft to bring drugs into the country. A wall would be ineffective at preventing these drugs from entering the country.

Hiring additional CBP officers and increasing funding for screening technology would be more efficient than a physical barrier.

Claim: “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country,” President Trump.

Fact: A president must use existing law to justify a state of national emergency.

The National Emergencies Act of 1976 formalized the emergency powers of the president and created checks and balances through Congress. While the president may declare a national emergency, he must cite specific emergency powers to make the declaration sound. Congress has the power to check and overrule the president’s declaration by passing a joint resolution. A declaration of a national emergency to move funds could be challenged in Congress and the courts.

Claim: “Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing,” President Trump.

Fact: According to a recent poll, the majority of federal workers oppose the shutdown.

More than 70 percent of federal employees surveyed in a recent poll from GovExec said they oppose the shutdown. Only 30 percent of federal employees said they support the president’s wall.

Claim: The president denies he previously claimed the wall would be built from concrete. He now says the wall will be built from steel to appease Democrats.

Fact: The impasse over building the wall is not about the materials used.

Democrats do not support using $5.7 billion to fund a border wall.

Claim: We have already built large new sections & fully renovated others, making them like new. — President Trump Tweet.

Fact: Since the President took office, no additional miles of barrier have been constructed.

Currently, there are 654 miles of existing barriers on the U.S. — Mexico border. The Obama-authored 2017 and Trump-authored 2018 budgets included money to replace old barriers with new barriers. The 2018 DHS Spending bill included $1.57 billion for 47 miles of new barriers and 48 miles of upgraded barriers

Some of these projects include the replacement of 14 miles of barrier in San Diego, four miles of replacement in El Paso and 32 miles of replacement in Yuma and Tucson.

Claim: The administration has put forward a plan for asylum seekers while their cases move through the courts.

Fact: The president has proposed a plan, Remain in Mexico, to force Mexico to house asylum seekers while their cases move through U.S. courts.

As of the end of November, there were more than 809,000 pending immigration cases. Individuals can wait years to have cases heard. The government shutdown only makes the problem worse as most immigration courts are closed and many judges are furloughed.

Claim: Sixty-three thousand Americans since 9/11 have been killed by illegal aliens. — President Trump.

Fact: This is nonsense. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 260,743 homicides took place in the U.S. from 2002 through 2016. Undocumented immigrants make up roughly three percent of the U.S. population, so the president is claiming, without evidence, that undocumented immigrants are ten times more likely to commit murder.

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The president and this administration have repeatedly lied and misled the public about immigration and immigrants coming to the United States.

Instead of wasting taxpayer money on an unnecessary wall the president must reopen the government, put people back to work and give federal workers and federal contractors the back pay to which they are entitled.

Rick Larsen

Written by

Representing Washington’s 2nd Congressional District

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