Carlos Barria-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump held court front and center on Tuesday night as he delivered remarks from the Oval Office in the hopes of convincing the American public and skeptical lawmakers that there is a crisis at the southern border. His goal: to secure billions of dollars in funds to build his promised “big, beautiful” wall amid a partial government shutdown that has no end in sight.
Trump has a history of making statements on immigration that are often misinformed, inaccurate, or downright unfounded. ABC News is fact checking his latest claims:
Claim: “The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
There is no evidence that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement deal would pay for the wall.
The United States, Mexico, and Canada came to an agreement on the USMCA, which is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress still needs to approve the trade deal, which has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America and 40-45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. It is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for the wall.
Claim: “My fellow Americans, tonight I’m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day, customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country.”
Looking at the situation at the southern border by the flow of migrants alone, there is little justification to call it a “crisis” at this point in time. The numbers are clear. Total apprehensions by Customs and Border Patrol have been trending downward for the past two decades.
According to Customs and Border Patrol Data, in 2001 there were 1,643,679 apprehensions at the border, compared with 396,579 in 2018.
While apprehensions are down in great numbers along historic trends, they have increased during the president’s most recent year in office. In 2018, there were roughly 92,000 more apprehensions at the southern border than 2017. In other words, they went up under his watch after a brief dip.
Overall, the numbers have been under a million since 2007, and have been hovering under 500,000 since 2010.
In fact, the lowest number of apprehensions in the past two decades came in 2017 – 303,916 – under President Trump.
Claim: “Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week 300 citizens are killed by heroin alone. 90% of which floods across from our southern border.”
This is true. According to the DEA 2018 Drug Threat Assessment, the southwest border is where large amounts of drugs enter the U.S.
But, it’s important to note those drugs largely come through legal points of entry. A border wall won’t fix that.
Heroin claimed 15,958 lives in 2017. That works out to 306 deaths each week.
The rapid increase in the number of drug deaths in recent years is largely attributable to fentanyl. If there is a crisis, fentanyl is it. But the fentanyl is mostly coming through the points of entry at the southwest border and it’s not just coming into the country there – China is a significant source of fentanyl as well.
According to the DEA 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, “large volumes of fentanyl are seized at the SWB [southwest border], although these seizures are typically low in purity, less than ten percent on average. Conversely, the smaller volumes seized after arriving in the mail directly from China can have purities over 90 percent.”
Drug organizations “most commonly smuggle the multi-kilogram loads of fentanyl concealed in POVs [privately owned vehicles] before trafficking the drugs through SWB [Southwest Border POEs [Ports of Entry],” the report states.
Claim: “More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam war.”
Trump’s prediction is consistent with the law enforcement official’s expectations.
According to the National Archives, 58,220 Americans died as a result of the Vietnam conflict.
Drug poisoning deaths surpassed that number in 2016 with 63,632 deaths that year and that number continued to climb in 2017 with 70,237 drug overdose deaths.
Statistics for 2018 are still being compiled but according to law enforcement sources, that number is expected to surpass the number of deaths in 2017.
Claim: “Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president.”
Trump is right to suggest that at several points Senator Schumer has backed the idea of a wall.
As recently as January 2018, Trump and Schumer appeared to have an agreement for permanent protections for some young undocumented immigrants in exchange for border security including the wall. But those negotiations eventually fell apart.
Democrats have voted for a physical barrier in the past, but it was far different than what he is asking for today.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the southern border, including enhanced surveillance technology, satellites, radar coverage and cameras. The barrier was far less ambitious than the “big, beautiful” concrete wall Trump has been calling for.
The legislation was part of the Bush administration’s broader strategy for comprehensive immigration reform. And while the bill itself called for the construction of border “fencing,” it also included a multi-faceted approach at securing the border.
The final vote in the Senate was 80-19. Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of the bill, including current Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
The final vote in the House was 283-138. Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voted against it at the time.
The legislation was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
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