Truth behind President’s border claims

Truth behind President’s border claims

Donald Trump’s prime-time speech to the nation from the Oval Office was filled with grim tales of a “growing crisis” on the border and a doomed future for the United States without a gigantic wall.

But the reality behind the terrifying picture he painted for millions of bemused viewers is remarkably different — and Democrats and commentators were not letting him get away with it.

The President’s speech was followed by an address from House speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who promised to provide the facts behind Mr Trump’s “malice and misinformation”.

Senator Bernie Sanders also delivered a video message after the speech, accusing the President of creating “fear and hatred in our country” and to “divert our attention from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.”

America’s biggest news outlets were quickly filled with fact-checking articles highlighting all the ways in which Mr Trump’s televised address was misleading.

These are the important truths behind the President’s version:

He said: “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.”

The facts: The Democrats have approved $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion) for border security, including a fence — they only refuse to sign off $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) for a wall, claiming it is an expensive and ineffective solution. Mr Trump has previously taken responsibility for the partial US government shutdown, now on its 19th day. “I will take the mantle,” he told Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer last month. “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”

He said: “Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with other Democrats.”

The facts: Democrats in the senate previously voted in favour of a 2006 law authorising a 1000-kilometre fence along the border, along with security measures including improved surveillance. During the 2016 election campaign, Mr Trump said this was not enough, insisting the wall should be concrete and 1600km long. In recent days, he has said a steel version could also work.

He said: “Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country.”

The facts: Customs and Border Protection said it had apprehended 51,856 people trying to cross the border illegally in November — around 1700 per day. A further 10,600 applied for lawful entry and were refused, but this is not an illegal entry.

He said: “Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 per cent of which floods across our southern border.”

The facts: The majority of heroin smuggled into the US comes across the southern border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Threat Assessment. But it usually comes through legal points of entry, concealed in cars or in packages mailed to the US or Canada from China.

He said: “The border wall would very quickly pay for itself.”

The facts: The President claims that the annual cost of illegal drugs in the US is $US500 billion, but a 2015 report by the surgeon general placed it at around $US193 billion. Plus, preventing illegal immigration will not end the problems with drug-trafficking and addiction in the US (see above).

He said: “In the last two years, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records.”

The facts: In 2017 and 2018, ICE arrested more than 210,876 people with criminal convictions, and a further 55,233 people with pending charges. But many of the offences were non-violent — the most common were traffic violations, possessing or selling drugs and immigration offences such as illegal entry.

He said: “1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

The facts: Doctors Without Borders said that 68.3 per cent of US-bound migrants entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their journey and nearly a third of women said they had been sexually abused. But violence is also why many of these women have chosen to make the trip.

He said: “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.”

The facts: There is some evidence of this, but economists say migrants tend to help American workers by taking jobs they do not want and allowing them to move into management. White House economist Kevin Hassett said before joining the Trump administration that immigration drives growth and that the US should double its migrant intake. A 2009 study by University of California-Davis economist Giovanni Peri found that a 1 per cent increase in a state’s employment due to immigration produced on average 0.5 per cent higher wages for each worker in that state.

He said: “The wall will also be paid for, indirectly, by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”

The facts: The revised North American Free Trade Agreement, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, has yet to pass Congress. But any economic benefits will come in the form of lower tariffs for US businesses or higher wages for workers — taxpayers will still need to fund the wall.

He said: “There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”

The facts: Border crossings hit 1.6 million in 2000 and have been in decline ever since, falling to just under 400,000 in fiscal 2018. In 2017, there were just over 300,000 apprehensions at the border, the lowest level in more than 45 years. There has, however, been an increase in crossings by families, leading to humanitarian issues and the US government attempts family detentions and separations.


The President today heads to Capitol Hill for further talks with no sign of progress on ending the shutdown he previously said could last “months or even years” as it hits government services, businesses, tourism and travel.

Many of the 800,000 federal workers on leave without pay or working without pay miss their first pay cheque this week and are struggling to afford their rent and bills.

“We don’t govern by temper tantrum,” Mr Schumer said on Tuesday night local time. “No President should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”

With time running out to get the government up and running again, members of Congress on both sides are growing increasingly concerned.

“This is dark,” tweeted Hawaiian Democratic senator Brian Schatz during the speech,

“Donald Trump’s presidency is a national emergency!” wrote Somali-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Minnesotan Democrat.

“We are not paying a $5 billion ransom note for your medieval border wall,” tweeted New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. “And nothing you just said will change that cold, hard reality.”

A dozen Senate Democrats took the floor in protest on Tuesday night, calling on Mr Trump and Republican senators to end the government shutdown. They are trying to pressure senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on legislation that would reopen the government.

Some Republicans facing close battles for reelection in 2020 have indicated they could cross the floor to vote in favour of bills opening key parts of the government without an agreement on border wall funding.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News: “If we undercut the President, that’s the end of his presidency and the end of our party.”

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