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A Reminder That Trump’s Immigration Record Is One of Lies, Cruelty AND Failure

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Washington, DC – During an interview that aired on Univision yesterday, Donald Trump endorsed an array of extreme policies and troubling pledges, including promising retribution against political enemies using executive branch powers. The lies, disinformation, and cruelty were particularly apparent in Trump’s remarks on immigration, which included both endorsements of chaotic policies that were cruel for cruelty’s sake and an attempt to whitewash his actual first term record on immigration.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

“Trump and the GOP cannot simultaneously say they want to make real inroads with Latinos while putting a target on the community’s back by embracing white nationalist extremism and nativism. Let’s be clear, Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies were not only costly and cruel, but also a failure, whether judged by border metrics, the wasteful and ineffective border wall, or his vicious policy of family separation. Instead of stepping away from these unpopular and un-American policies, he is doubling down on his extremism and pledging to go even further in a Trump second term while trying to reinvent the reality of his actual immigration record.

And remember while Trump’s South Florida rally and Univision interview underscore his efforts to appeal to a segment of right-leaning Latino voters, Trump remains largely unpopular among the majority of Latino voters, which sharply broke against him both times he was on the ballot, and remains strongly opposed to MAGA extremism on immigration and other issues. If Trump/ Republicans were serious about the best interests of the Latino community, then they should first start by ending their demonization and extreme rhetoric around immigrants.”

Backgrounder: Trump’s Immigration Record One of Cruelty, Chaos, and Failure

As the Washington Post recapped, Trump stated during the Univision interview:

“‘When you hear that you’re going to be separated from your family, you don’t come. When you think you’re going to come into the United States with your family, you come.’ The decision to separate families, he argued, ‘stopped people from coming by their hundreds of thousands because when they hear family separation, they say ‘Well, we better not go.’’”

In reality, family separation was one of the darkest moments of modern U.S. history – Physicians for Human Rights wrote in a 2020 report that zero tolerance rose “to the level of torture” – and failed in deterring migration to the U.S (see here and here).

The same is true with Trump’s border wall – it’s a symbol of Trump’s cruelty and also wasteful and ineffective as a policy. When Trump touts the border wall at his rallies, remember his supposedly “impenetrable” border wall didn’t work as a deterrent – it was cut through hundreds of times with a cheap saw; knocked over with a stiff wind, and had to be left open for months at a time during the summer because of potential flood damage. And recall that Trump raided funds appropriated by Congress for military families support to build sections of the wall; spent hundreds of millions on painting the wall a darker shade because he thought black was a more menacing color; and watched as the contracts went to his cronies and donors.

The larger Trump immigration record is defined by cruelty and failure even through the misplaced deterrence lens. Despite his cruel policies, Trump presided over upticks of arrivals at our southern border throughout his presidency  – including a 2019 “crisis” and a 40% increase in border arrivals during the first part of 2020 that Trump’s allies tried to pin on President Biden while Trump was still in office.

Spikes in migration and the number of people seeking asylum have happened under Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden – in 2014, 2016, 2019, 2020 and over the past several years, underscoring the reality that migration is a global issue and blunt, deterrence-only policies are ill suited for the real complexities at play.

In a terrific op-ed last week in the New York Times, the Cato Institute’s David Bier also reminded regarding Trump’s real immigration record:

“In the two years before Mr. Biden took office, the Trump administration released nearly 713,000 immigrants, or a little over 52 percent of the 1.4 million crossers. In other words, Mr. Trump’s policies resulted in far fewer removals in absolute terms and a slightly higher percentage of released border crossers than Mr. Biden’s. The data highlights how much of a distraction pinning all migration trends on the executive branch truly is. What’s the point in developing a nuanced understanding of the situation when you believe that all that’s needed is a new person in the Oval Office to proclaim “Stop!” to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?”