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Fact check: President Donald Trump's national emergency remarks

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In declaring a national emergency at the Southwest border, President Donald Trump strung together a long list of false, misleading and unsupported claims on illegal immigration, drug smuggling, human trafficking, trade deficits and other issues.

We briefly cover some of the statements the president made in his Feb. 15 Rose Garden remarks – nearly all of which we have debunked numerous times before.


Trump said: “We have a real problem. We have catch-and-release. You catch a criminal, and you have to release him.”  The facts: That’s not accurate. The U.S. does not have to release criminals; in fact, it is required to detain certain criminals. Those attempting to enter the U.S. without “valid entry documents” or “by fraud or misrepresentation” must be detained pending an expedited removal proceeding, as explained in a 2018 report by the Congressional Research Service. And they are subject to deportation whether they have a criminal record or not.

Now, some people apprehended trying to cross the border illegally (or legally for that matter) may seek asylum in the U.S., a process that can stretch for years in some cases. The immigrant must first get a U.S. official to determine that he or she faces a “credible fear” of prosecution or torture if forced to return home, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If an asylum officer doesn’t find there’s a credible fear, the immigrant can request a review by an immigration judge. If the judge agrees with the officer, the immigrant can then be removed from the U.S.

Even for those who have passed this initial “credible fear” threshold, they still must have a formal asylum hearing, which can take years. But authorities are under no obligation to release those awaiting a long-term removal proceeding. In fact, ICE is required to hold certain criminals, including those who have been convicted of an aggravated felony, those who have multiple criminal convictions, and those who have served more than a year in jail for a criminal offense. That’s spelled out in the Immigration Nationality Act, Section 236 (c).

Those apprehended near the border who have committed a less serious offense and who are deemed not to pose a risk to public safety, can be released pending the long-term proceeding. But authorities are not obligated to do so, especially if they are deemed a risk to public safety, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told us. “There is no obligation to release anyone,” Pierce said.

‘Chain migration’

Trump said: “You have chain migration. Where a bad person comes in, brings 22 or 23 or 35 of his family members – because he has his mother, his grandmother, his sister, his cousin, his uncle – they’re all in. You know what happened on the West Side Highway. That young wise guy drove over and killed eight people and horribly injured – nobody talks about that – horribly, like loss of legs and arms. … He had many people brought in because he was in the United States. It’s called chain migration.” The facts: Trump is referring to Sayfullo Saipov, a Uzbekistan national who has been charged in a 2017 terrorist attack in New York City that killed eight people and injured 11 others. Trump hasrepeatedlyclaimed that Saipov used “chain migration” to bring 22 people with him into the United States. There’s no evidence that Saipov brought even one relative to the country.

Saipov came to the U.S. in 2010 through theDiversity Immigrant Visa Program, according to the Department of Homeland Security. As a green card holder, Saipov could not have sponsored anyone other than a spouse and children, and he married in the United States in 2013  so he could not have been responsible for bringing in the relatives cited by Trump. Saipov’s father and mother  Habibullo Saipov and Muqaddas Saipova  were living in Uzbekistan at the time of the attack, as reported by the Daily Mail and the Wall Street Journal.

Diversity immigration visa

Trump said: “And then you have the lottery. It’s a horror show, because when countries put people into the lottery, they’re not putting you in; they’re putting some very bad people in the lottery. It’s common sense. If I ran a country, and if I have a lottery system of people going to the United States, I’m not going to put in my stars; I’m going to put in people I don’t want. The lottery system’s a disaster. I’m stuck with it.” The facts: The president hasrepeatedlymisrepresented how the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program works. Under the program, the Department of State randomly selects up to 50,000 qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Contrary to Trump’s claim, countries do not “put in people” for visas; the individuals themselves apply. And those selected in the “lottery,” as Trump calls it, must pass an extensive background check before they are given green cards, or legal permanent resident status.

There are more than a dozen grounds of inadmissibility, including health issues, criminal activity, national security concerns and the “likelihood of becoming a public charge,” meaning “a person who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” That’s all done in an attempt to prevent “very bad people,” as Trump called them, from getting into the country.

Southwest border apprehensions 

Trump said: “So we have far more people trying to get into our country today than probably we’ve ever had before.” The facts: The number of people who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year is unknown, but federal authorities use the number of apprehensions to gauge changes in illegal immigration. Southwest border apprehensions totaled 396,579 in fiscal year 2018, which was up from 303,916 in fiscal 2017. Still, the 2018 figure is down 76 percent from the peak of 1.64 million apprehensions in fiscal 2000, according to Border Patrol data. (For more, see our updated story, “Illegal Immigration Statistics.”)

Illegal drugs at the border

Trump said: “But one of the things I said I have to do and I want to do is border security, because we have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border. When you look and when you listen to politicians – in particular certain Democrats – they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”

The facts: The Drug Enforcement Administration not just “certain Democrats”  say that Mexican cartels “transport the bulk of their drugs over the Southwest Border through ports of entry (POEs) using passenger vehicles or tractor trailers.” This is particularly true for heroin and fentanyl  two opioids that Trump mentioned in his remarks. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection drug seizure statistics for fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, 2018, 90 percent of heroin seizures occurred at legal ports of entry in the first 11 months and 80 percent of fentanyl in the first 10 months. “A small percentage of all heroin seized by CBP along the land border was between Ports of Entry,” the DEA said in its 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection made thelargest fentanyl bustin its history when a Mexican national “attempted to enter the United States through the Port of Nogales.” Border agents discovered nearly 254 pounds of fentanyl worth about $3.5 million “concealed within a special floor compartment of a trailer that was laden with cucumbers.” Trump has been making this claim since 2017 and, most recently, in this month’s State of the Union address.

Human trafficking at the border

Trump said: “If you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border, if you’re going to have human traffickers pouring across the border in areas where we have no protection, in areas where we don’t have a barrier, then very hard to make America great again.”

The facts: There’s no data on how many are smuggled illegally across the border with Mexico for human trafficking, as we said in our story when Trump made a similar claim in his State of the Union address. But experts told us legal ports are the typical mode of entry in the bulk of the cases they deal with concerning foreign nationals. A spokesperson for Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told us “the vast majority of people are coming through legal ports of entry.” That’s based on statistics the group has compiled from the calls it receives through the hotline.

In addition, the United Nations’ International Organization on Migrationhas foundthat “nearly 80% of international human trafficking journeys cross through official border points, such as airports and land border control points,” based on 10 years’ worth of cases on which the IOM has assisted.

Paying for the border wall

Trump said: “And, by the way, the USMCA, from Mexico – that’s United States, Mexico, Canada – that’s where the money’s coming from, not directly, but indirectly, for the wall. And nobody wants to talk about that.”  The facts: The White House has sought as much as $25 billion for the wall, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection has estimated that it will cost $18 billion in the first 10 years of construction. The president has made the claim  which we have debunked onmanyoccasions that the revenue generated from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, will indirectly pay for the wall. But the White House has provided no analysis to support the president’s claim, and trade experts we interviewedsaid it’s not possible. 

The agreement  which was signed by the leaders of all three countries in November, but has yet to be approved by Congress  represents an arguably slightly better deal for the U.S. than the current North American Free Trade Agreement, experts told us, but not enough to generate enough federal revenues to pay for the wall. Kent Smetters, a professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told us the additional revenue could not “cover annual maintenance and improvements of the wall much less the original build.”

‘Wall’ construction, so far

Trump said: “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster. And I don’t have to do it for the election. I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election – 2020.”  The facts: Despite the president’s claim that he has “already done a lot of the wall,” little new fencing has been constructed, and none of it is the type Trump promised during the campaign. As we have written, Congress last year approved $1.6 billion to replace existing barriers and add some fencing in new areas. But Congress stated that the money can only be used to build “operationally effective designs deployed as of the date of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, [May 5, 2017] such as deployed steel bollard designs, that prioritize agent safety.” That language prohibits the administration from building any of the wall prototypes that the administration had designed and that the president toured last year in California.

Although the administration says the $1.6 billion appropriated last year will fund 100 miles of “wall,” we calculated that there would be about 40 miles of new barriers, which have yet to be completed, while the rest is for upgrades to existing barriers. And the 100 miles of barriers is far short of the 722 miles of new and replacement barriers that the administration has said it plans to build.

1 comment:

  1. this is fake news, dont be swayed by it, in fact fake news.