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Ahead of Trump’s Boastful State of the Union, We Set the Record Straight on Immigration

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“Deterrence by way of cruelty, chaos, racism and suffering is not success, it’s failure.”

At tonight’s State of the Union address, expect President Trump to claim “success” on his signature immigration and border obsessions. Below, first read America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry’s assessment of why Trump is, in fact, a cruel failure on his signature issue, followed by a by-the-numbers reminder of Trump’s real immigration and border record:

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director for America’s Voice: 

While President Trump will attempt to dress up his immigration radicalism as ‘success,’ his immigration and border record has been an abject failure, permanently defined by its cruelty and chaos. 

When we step back from the daily barrage of disturbing immigration policy changes, we can connect the dots and clearly see what President Trump and Stephen Miller are up to. They are engaged in a relentless and radical effort to keep out and kick out immigrants and refugees on the basis of race, religion, gender and class in a drive to slow the demographic changes underway in America. They are doing so by executive fiat, going around existing law and the sitting Congress, often with the aid of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. 

Individually, their policy changes are insidious. Together, they amount to a fundamental assault on the type of country we aspire to be.

Along the border, Trump’s wall is a ridiculous boondoggle — costing American taxpayers billions and counting — for an offensive wall you can cut through with a saw, climb over with a ladder, knock over with a stiff wind. New reporting reveals that this ‘big, beautiful’ and ‘impenetrable’ wall needs to be left open for months at a time during the summer because of potential flood damage. Trump lost the political battle to build his wall but did it anyway with an emergency declaration that was opposed by a majority of Congress and the public, but was greenlighted by the Supreme Court. As a result, Trump is raiding funds appropriated for military families, and Jared Kushner is overseeing the seizing of private land from landowners in Texas, all to build an ineffective and environmentally disastrous monument to Trump.

And as he claims ‘success’ through the declining numbers of border apprehensions in recent months, remember the following: 1) the administration cut off aid to desperate Central American countries, exacerbating the violence, food insecurity and human rights violations that cause migrants to give up hope that there’s a future for their families at home; and 2) while the administration’s deterrence-through-cruelty strategy has temporarily “reduced apprehension numbers,” some 60,000 asylum seekers are living in dangerous and squalid conditions in northern Mexico. Misnamed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the unprecedented strategy forces asylum seekers into the hands of the cartels, resulting in kidnappings, robberies and rape.

Deterrence by way of cruelty, chaos, racism and suffering is not success, it’s failure. Trump has trashed and sullied the American tradition of welcoming those who come to make better lives and make ours a better country. We look forward to a new day, a new administration, and a renewed commitment to an approach to Central America and asylum, and to immigration policy overall, that is based on the American ideals of respect for sovereignty integrated with a respect for the contributions of refugees and immigrants and respect for our democratic form of government.” 

By the Numbers: Key Reminders of Trump’s Real Immigration Record 

  • 5,400+: the number of children separated from their families at the border by the Trump administration. And as Dara Lind recently reported, the MPP program is now separating even more families.
  • 26,000: the number of children the Trump administration was prepared to separate from families, even though they knew it would be traumatic, per a DHS IG report.
  • 57,000 and 816: There are more than 57,000 individuals, including 16,500 children and infants, who have been forced to wait in dangerous and overcrowded conditions in Mexico due to the MPP program – part of the evisceration of asylum access. These individuals have been subjected to at least 816 reported cases of murder, torture, rape, kidnapping, and other violent assaults while in dangerous conditions in Mexico.
  • 660,880: the number of DACA recipients as of June 2019, a declining number since Trump’s 2017 attempt to end DACA means that no new applicants can obtain status. The nearly 700,000 DACA recipients are at risk of deportation if SCOTUS sides with the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA, per ICE Acting Director Matt Albence.
  • 318,160: the approximate total number of TPS holders in the U.S., in danger of deportation if TPS is ended, as the Trump administration is pushing for.
  • $11 billion and counting: The price tag for Trump’s border wall is more than $11 billion — or nearly $20 million a mile. Of note, this price tag does not even include the costs of seizing private land and related legal battles. All for a stupid and ineffective wall that you can cut through with a saw, climb over with a ladder, knock over with a stiff wind, and needs to be left open for months at a time during the summer.
  • 18,000: President Trump set a new record low for the targeted admission of refugees in 2020 and the country may end up admitting fewer than that. The ceiling for fiscal year 2019 was 30,000, which, at the time, was the lowest level since 1980. For the most thoroughly vetted and desperate individuals fleeing oppression and violence, the President is closing the door.
  • 59% and 63% less likely: As Trump gears up for an ugly focus on immigration, remember that he closed hard on xenophobia in 2018 and it backfired badly on the GOP. According to GOP pollster David Winston, the Republican focus on immigration in the closing days of the 2018 midterms homestretch lost votes: “The people who made their decision over the last few days voted Democratic by a 12-point margin,” further noting that late-deciding voters were 59 percent less likely to back Republicans after hearing from them on immigration, and 63 percent less likely to vote for Republicans after hearing from the GOP on border security and the migrant caravans.
  • 63-36%: Despite the anti-immigrant movement and Trump/GOP fear-mongering over so-called “sanctuary cities,” Oregon voters voted on a 2018 state ballot measure by that overwhelming margin in favor of keeping separate local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement. As Trump goes back to those same “sanctuary” scare tactics and as more 2020 states explore similar sanctuary ballot measures, keep the Oregon lesson in mind.
  • 67% and growing: Trump has forced a referendum on immigrants and immigration and the American people are growing increasingly pro-immigrant . As pollster Stan Greenberg writes in a new Financial Times op-ed, “before the 2016 election, 53 per cent nationally said immigrants ‘strengthen our country’; that grew to 62 per cent before the midterms. As the administration escalated its anti-immigration efforts in 2019, the proportion offering a warm response to the words, ‘immigrants to the US’ climbed from 52 per cent in January to 67 per cent in September.”
  • 75%: Similarly, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, they measured a record-high percentage of Americans who think immigration is a good thing.