Fact-checking Donald Trump’s immigration speech
By Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Glenn Kessler, September 1, 2016
Donald Trump gave his long-awaited speech on immigration in Phoenix on Aug. 31. Here’s a roundup of some of the more interesting claims he made in the lengthy address; we expect we will dig deeper into some of his other statistics in the coming days. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios in speech roundups.
“Illegal immigration costs our country more than $113 billion a year. And this is what we get. For the money we are going to spend on illegal immigration over the next 10 years, we could provide 1 million at-risk students with a school voucher.”Trump states this $113 billion figure as an undisputed fact, but it comes from a report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to dramatically reduce legal immigration. So you immediately have to look at the numbers with skepticism.
Digging into the numbers, you see that burden on the federal budget is estimated to be just $29 billion, whereas $84 billion is supposedly borne by state and local governments. Why is that? The group counts the cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants, even if they are born in the United States and, thus, are U.S. citizens. “The birth of these children and their subsequent medical care represent a large share of the estimated Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Program expenditures associated with illegal aliens,” the report says.
The report, however, says it tries to account for the taxes collected by federal and local governments from illegal immigrants, but the services used by undocumented immigrants outweigh revenue collections. (Taking into account tax revenues, FAIR says the net cost is about $99 billion.) We should note that because the federal government is currently running a deficit, U.S. citizens also receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes.
“Hillary Clinton has pledged amnesty in her first 100 days, and her plan will provide Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare for illegal immigrants, breaking the federal budget.”Trump falsely says Clinton’s plan will provide Social Security to illegal immigrants. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios. In general, people in the United States illegally are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. They must be granted some type of lawful status — either by obtaining legal status or being granted deferred action.
Even those who are granted deferred action through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) are not granted benefits through the Affordable Care Act. They are, however, eligible for Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits with 10 years of work history, after paying income taxes, and once they reach retirement age.
Clinton supports “comprehensive immigration reform” and has vowed that within her first 100 days in office, she will introduce a plan to overhaul the immigration system with a pathway to full citizenship (which Trump calls “amnesty”). Clinton also supports President Obama’s executive actions on DACA and DAPA. DAPA is pending in court under litigation, and DACA went into effect in 2012.
Clinton does support expanding Obamacare to all families, regardless of immigration status and allowing them to buy into the health exchanges, according to her immigration proposal.
But DACA grantees will not yet reach retirement age if Clinton becomes president and serves two terms in office. DACA grantees must have been under 31 as of June 15, 2012, and meet several other criteria to be eligible. So if Clinton serves two terms and leaves office in 2025, the oldest DACA grantees would be 43.
Trump says her plan would break the federal budget, but the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that the immigration reform component of Clinton’s plan would save the federal budget $100 billion over 10 years.
“This includes her plan to bring in 620,000 new refugees from Syria and that region over a short period of time.”Trump has used this number before, but it stems from the unverified assumption that Clinton, who has called for 55,000 additional refugees from Syria, would continue at that pace for every year of her first term, on top of the Obama administration’s proposal for 100,000 refugees for fiscal year 2017. Trump then multiplies 155,000 times four years to reach 620,000 refugees. Clinton has never proposed such a “plan,” so this is an invented figure. Clinton only has proposed an increase of 55,000 refugees for one year.
“We will restore the highly successful Secure Communities Program. Good program. We will expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails that we don’t even know about.”Trump lauded these two Department of Homeland Security programs, but both have been widely scrutinized and it’s questionable how effective they are.
DHS targeted immigration enforcement to those who committed serious crimes through efforts like Secure Communities, rolled out per county from 2008 through 2012. But a 2014 study showed that increased enforcement didn’t lead to decreased crime, calling into question whether serious crimes were prevalent.
Secure Communities was billed as a crackdown on immigrants who committed serious crimes. But researchers found Secure Communities did not result in a meaningful reduction in the FBI’s overall index crime rate or in rates of violent crimes. There were modest reductions in burglary and motor vehicle theft, not serious crimes like homicides or violent crime.
The program is being phased out, as local agencies are ending or scaling back their participation. Secure Communities was meant to be a complement to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, through which ICE gave authority to certain state and local law enforcement officers to carry out the functions of federal immigration agents.
The 287(g) program was scrutinized by immigration advocates for diverting local resources to do federal enforcement work, and the potential for racial profiling, without proper federal oversight.
In fact, local law enforcement officers carrying out immigration enforcement under 287(g) authority led to a federal racial profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a Trump surrogate who delivered one of the opening speeches Wednesday night. The Department of Justice found that the sheriff’s office engaged in systemic racial profiling of Latinos. DHS removed the 287(g) authority of Arpaio’s agency, and a federal judge imposed changes.
“It’s always 11 million. Our government has no idea. It could be 3 million. It could be 30 million. They have no idea what the number is.”Trump says the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States — which is estimated at 11 million — could be anywhere between 3 million or 30 million. A number of independent organizations researching immigrant flows and the federal government have arrived at the 11 million estimate for the population of undocumented immigrants, using calculations of Census data.
Our friends at PolitiFact and FactCheck.org have found Trump’s 30 million figure to be bogus. A range of experts who study this issue say the margin of error for the 11 million figure may be plus or minus 1 million, but no serious research supports Trump’s claim it could be as high as 30 million.
“For instance, in the last five years, we’ve admitted nearly 100,000 immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan. And these two countries, according to Pew Research, a majority of residents say that the barbaric practice of honor killings against women are often or sometimes justified.”Actually, between 2009 and 2014, the United States has admitted 120,000 immigrants from Iraq and 18,000 from Afghanistan, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics\. So this is a rare case where Trump lowballs a number.
It goes without saying that the United States has fought two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, special visa programs were enacted by Congress to expedite the processing of Afghans and Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government.
Trump correctly cites a Pew Research study that surveyed attitudes in various Muslim countries. “In only two countries — Afghanistan (60%) and Iraq (60%) — do majorities say honor killings of women are often or sometimes justified, while only in Afghanistan does a majority (59%) say the same about executing men who have allegedly engaged in pre- or extra-marital sex,” the report said.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton “support visa overstays.”The Department of Homeland Security has a visa overstay identification process. According to DHS, there were nearly 45 million nonimmigrant visitors in fiscal 2015, with an overstay rate of 1.17 percent, or 525,127 people. That was the first time DHS provided an estimate of foreign visitors who overstayed.
But the Obama administration — and previously, the Bush administration — has been criticized by Congress, law enforcement officials and advocates for failing to fix loopholes in the visa program.
Clinton’s immigration proposal does not address visa overstays. The only mention of visa issues in her proposal is to “fix the family visa backlog,” but it does not offer any specifics. According to the pro-immigrant group National Immigration Forum, there is an administrative backlog of processing visas for spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens. Clinton has said her “comprehensive immigration reform” proposal with a pathway to citizenship would fix the family visa backlog.
“There are at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States. Including large numbers of violent criminals, they won’t take them back.”Trump is right about this, according to a letter written by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who in June 2016 urged the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to stop granting visas to countries that refuse to accept the deportation of their own citizens. The letter said such action has been taken only once, against Ghana in 2001. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has said he would seek legislation that would sanction countries that refuse to take back their nationals.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the United States can hold convicted criminals for only six months in detention if a country refuses to accept them. More than 100 immigrants released from detention have later been charged in homicides.
“Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws like they have to be enforced.”Trump likes to use anecdotes as evidence for associating violent crimes with illegal immigration, telling stories of victims of homicide by undocumented immigrants. He often talks about the deaths of Jamiel Shaw, Kate Steinle and Sarah Root, all killed by people in the country illegally.
Clearly, stories like this exist. But as we’ve noted numerous times, there are two important data points to remember when Trump talks about this.
First, the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants do not fit Trump’s description of aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder. U.S. Sentencing Commission data shows homicides are a small percentage of the crimes committed by noncitizens, whether they are in the United States illegally or not.
Second, illegal immigration flows across the Southern border in fiscal 2015 were at the lowest levels since 1972, except for in 2011. Earlier this year, there were upticks in border apprehensions of unaccompanied children and their families, compared to 2015. The apprehensions in fiscal 2016 so far have exceeded fiscal 2015, but still indicate an overall decline.
“A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office found that illegal immigrants and other non-citizens, in our prisons and jails together, had around 25,000 homicide arrests to their names.”The figure is correct, but this is misleading and lacks context. The 2011 Government Accountability Office report Trump cites collected reports from 2003 to 2009 to the Department of Justice’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, through which states and localities get reimbursed for convicting and incarcerating inmates of illegal or unknown immigration status (mainly from Mexico).
The study looked at five states (Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas) with the largest populations of such inmates. There were 25,064 homicide arrests for this population, but it comprised 1 percent of the 2.9 million arrests they tracked in the study. About 50 percent of the arrests were related to immigration, drugs or traffic violations.
Inmate legal status is not always tracked at local jails and state prisons. This report includes both people who are known to be in the United States illegally, and those who states and local jurisdictions believe are present illegally but whose status can’t be confirmed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.