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Fact Checkers Agree: Trump a Failure on Immigration and a Liar on Immigration Ad Claims

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Last week, we fact checked the Trump re-election campaign’s television ad lie that he has “cut illegal immigration in half.” As we noted, the ad compares the Trump record to the Trump record (comparing May 2019 numbers to September 2019 numbers), while relying on the less-than-neutral arbiters of Fox News and Trump acolyte and nativist true believer Ken Cuccinelli as the supposed credible sourcing (see English and Spanish versions here and  here).    

We’re far from alone in fact checking the Trump immigration ad lie – fact checking organizations, reporters, and even right wing media are similarly weighing in to highlight the lie at the heart of the Trump campaign ad and offering reminders of his true failures on immigration and border measures.

CNN’s fact check team writes in analysis titled, “Fact checking the misleading immigration statistic from Trump’s World Series ad”:

Trump has not come even close to cutting illegal immigration to half of the level he had inherited. ‘Overall, irregular migration is up since President Trump took office, not down,’ said Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

… If you compare the average for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years (the first years solely under Trump) and the average for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 fiscal years (solely under Obama), it is a 43% increase under Trump, Gelatt noted. ‘The number of people coming to the US border was at historic lows by the end of the Obama administration. Under President Trump, they increased to levels not seen since 2007, and only last month came back down to the monthly level seen at the end of the Obama administration,’ she said.

Factcheck.org writes, “Trump Ad Misleads on Illegal Immigration,” noting:

The Trump campaign apparently based the claim on data showing a significant decline in migrants caught illegally crossing the Southwest border between May and August of this year. But counting apprehensions in just that three-month period amounts to cherry-picking. Measured over a longer period of time, apprehensions under Trump are up instead of down.

… as we wrote in “Trump’s Numbers October 2019 Update,” since Trump entered office in January 2017, “[i]llegal border crossings nearly doubled, as of the most recent 12 months on record.” That was based on U.S. Customs and Border Protection data as of August. September data is now available from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which allowed us to compare fiscal years for this story — as illustrated in the chart below. (Note: There are technically no statistics for those who cross the border illegally, but apprehensions by CBP are used to measure such trends.)

… In fiscal year 2019, there were 851,508 total apprehensions, which is the highest since 858,638 in fiscal year 2007.

Politifact, from the Poynter Institute, rated the ad false, noting: 

…To evaluate whether Trump is “cutting illegal immigration in half” one should look at data on apprehensions before and during his time in office, experts said.

Southwest border apprehensions during Obama’s tenure on average were around 400,000 a year. That average is higher for Trump.

Apprehensions declined about 26% from fiscal years 2016 to 2017, but picked up again in 2018 and 2019. (2017 included about four months of Obama’s presidency.)

There were roughly 548,000 more apprehensions in 2019 than there were in 2017. 

Border Patrol agents recorded a total 851,508 apprehensions in fiscal year 2019. 

That is nearly a 115% increase from the 396,579 apprehensions in 2018.

Even the right wing outlet Daily Caller criticized the “misleading” immigration claims in the campaign ad:

…the Trump campaign is claiming success because they were able to reduce a record number of border crossings that technically ballooned during Trump’s presidency. Indeed, the number of yearly apprehensions has overall been much higher under Trump that it was under then-President Barack Obama … Moreover, the problem has actually gotten worse, not better, since the beginning of Trump’s presidency.

A “by the numbers” reminder of Trump’s real immigration record – showing he’s a cruel failure:

As we noted yesterday, the Trump re-election immigration ad is a preview of what we can expect in the months ahead from Trump and his campaign – attempts to cover up and explain away their failed immigration and border record and resultant chaos and cruelty through ridiculous spin and flat-out lies. As we reach one year before the 2020 election, America’s Voice decided to offer up our own assessment of the real Trump immigration and border record, “by the numbers,” showing that Trump is a cruel and chaotic failure on his signature immigration issue (see here for full “by the numbers” assessment).