POLITICS

Fact-Checking Trump's Misleading And Outright False Claims From His Border Address

Again, Mexico is not paying for the wall.

President Donald Trump addressed the nation live from the Oval Office on Tuesday night in an attempt to drum up support for his border wall. But the 10-minute address, carried on every major television network in America, was rife with double-speak, cherry-picked statistics and outright falsehoods.

Take a look at some of the biggest lies from the president’s speech below.

That Mexico will pay for the wall indirectly.

“The wall will always be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”

After abandoning his campaign pledge that Mexico would directly pay for a barrier along the southern border, Trump has instead insisted in recent months that the country would do so indirectly through a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

However, both economists and trade experts have said that won’t be the case. First, the revised trade deal hasn’t been approved by Congress yet, and any economic benefits would simply come from lower tariffs or increased wages for Americans. Those benefits will be dwarfed by the actual cost of the wall, many outside experts say, and it’ll be American taxpayers who will ultimately pay for the massive structure if it goes forward.

That drugs are pouring across the border.

“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.”

More than 90 percent of heroin sold in the United States does come from Mexico, but almost all of it is transported through legal ports of entry. Only a “small percentage of all heroin seized by CBP along the land border was between Ports of Entry,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a report last year.

Fentanyl, a major narcotic that has led to a spate of drug overdoses, mainly comes into the United States through packages mailed from China and has been difficult for border agents to detect, according to The New York Times.

Trump also said illicit drugs cost the U.S. some $500 billion annually, but a surgeon general report in 2015 estimated that toll at around a third of the president’s figure, or $193 billion.

That children are being used as pawns.

“Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.”

Customs and Border Protection reported in November that a little more than 20,000 “family units” were captured at the southern border. But only a small percentage of these family units have been determined to be a ploy in an attempt to sneak over the border, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The majority of migrant children are accompanied by their parents or other relatives.

That Democrats are stonewalling efforts to end the partial government shutdown.

“Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.”

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

Trump accused Democrats in Congress of holding up the government shutdown by stonewalling negotiations on border security. In fact, Democrats offered to allocate $1.3 billion in the budget for border security, which included building and refurbishing barriers at the border.

During a meeting with Trump in December, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed with the president that the country needed border security. They also asked Trump if he would be willing to budge from his $5.7 billion request.

In that same meeting, Trump maintained that he would keep the government shutdown going if he didn’t get what he wanted, contradicting Tuesday night’s address where he solely blamed Democrats for the shutdown.

“Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other — whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call — I will shut down the government. Absolutely,” Trump said in December.

He added: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”

That Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer supported a border wall in the past.

“Sen. Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats,” Trump said. “They changed their mind only after I was elected president.”

Schumer did previously support a bill that allowed for the construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, but that fence pales in comparison to the “big, beautiful” 30-foot concrete wall that Trump promised his supporters.

In 2006, Schumer, along with then-Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and 22 other Democrats, voted for the Secure Fence Act, which authorized a fence to be built along 700 miles of the border and included short vehicle barriers and additional surveillance.

Trump’s plans for his border wall vary over time and are vague, but here’s what we do know: According to a 2017 executive order, it would be an “impassable physical barrier,” which Trump first proclaimed would be made of concrete before switching to “steel slats.” He’s also said the wall had to be 30 feet or higher.

As Trump pointed out himself while campaigning for president in 2015, his border wall would be nothing like a fence.

“It’s not a fence,” Trump said in a tweet addressed to Jeb Bush. “It’s a WALL, and there’s a BIG difference!”

That the immigrants that ICE has arrested are extremely violent and dangerous.

“In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.”

The statistics that Trump uses are mostly accurate, though he frames it in a way to make immigrants crossing the border more dangerous than they actually are.

According to ICE’s year-end report, the agency arrested 210,876 people with previous criminal convictions and 55,233 people with pending charges ― but the criminal convictions include such non-violent offenses as DUIs and other traffic violations.

The second set of numbers he provides are based on specific charges and convictions. As the Washington Post’s Salvador Rizzo pointed out, “In many cases, the people arrested face multiple counts, so that switch [to focusing on charges and convictions] gives a confusing picture.”

 

That Democrats support a steel barrier along the border with Mexico.

“At the request of Democrats it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.”

The reality: Democrats don’t want a wall. Period. They do, however, want an end to the shutdown.

“The fact is: We all agree that we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values,” Pelosi said in the Democrats’ rebuttal speech. “We can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; and we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.”

“Make no mistake: Democrats and the president both want stronger border security,” Schumer added. “However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.”

CONVERSATIONS