Fact Checkers Say Trump Built A Wall Of False Claims On Immigration

Good summary:

Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly write in their book that Donald Trump has made more false or misleading statements about immigration than any other issue. According to the authors, that is saying something. The book, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President’s Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies, contains numerous examples of Donald Trump’s statements on immigration and represents a valuable resource.

Immigration Tops in Washington Post Database: “Immigration is the top category of false and misleading claims in our Trump database, accounting for 15% of the total 16,241 statements we fact checked in the first three years of Trump’s presidency,” according to the authors.

That comes to an incredible 2,400 or more false and misleading claims by Donald Trump on immigration, with more than 200 additional such statements since the book was published. Trump has repeated many of the false claims on immigration dozens of times, the authors conclude. Below is a sample of Trump’s statements.

Mexico Will (Not) Pay For the Wall: Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly list Trump’s claim that Mexico is paying for the border wall first in the book. During the 2016 presidential campaign and later, Trump asserted Mexico would pay for the wall. “Mexico’s paying for the wall. You know that. You’ll see that. It’s all worked out. Mexico’s paying,” Trump said at a rally on January 14, 2020.

Spoiler alert: Mexico has not paid for the wall. Nor is there any suggestion that it will,” the authors note. “The current barrier construction is being paid for with billions of dollars appropriated by Congress for the defense budget and raided by Trump over congressional opposition.” (Emphasis added.)

Family Separation: Trump blamed the separation of children from their parents at the border on the Democrats. “I hate children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law,” said Trump on June 15, 2018.

“Trump’s family separations in 2018 caused a national uproar,” according  to Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly. “U.S. immigration officials separated thousands of Central American migrant children from their parents, sending the kids off to shelters or relatives while their parents were prosecuted and put on track to be deported. The Trump administration’s messaging seemed at times Orwellian. Top government officials claimed there was no family-separation policy. The president falsely asserted that existing laws were forcing his hand. But the real reason for the separations was Trump’s own zero-tolerance policy.”

At the presidential debate on October 22, 2020, Donald Trump tried to blame the Obama administration for the family separation policies that Trump advocated for and encouraged. “Mr. Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy was a deliberate act of family separation, meant to deter migrants from trying to enter the United States,” reported Zolan Kanno-Youngs in the New York Times after the debate. “It directed prosecutors to file criminal charges against everyone who crossed the border without authorization, including parents, who were then separated from their children when they were taken into custody.”

Immigrants and Crime: “The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous for our country. . . .They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime,” said Trump on December 6, 2017.

In the book, Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly cite academic research that shows immigrants do not increase the crime rate: “‘Far from immigration increasing crime rates, studies demonstrate that immigrants and immigration are associated inversely with crime,’ the National Academy of Sciences study concluded. ‘Immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit crimes, and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence than comparable non-immigrant neighborhoods.’”

False Claims About Refugees: “Every Democrat running for president wants to open the floodgates to unlimited refugees from all around the world, overwhelming your communities and putting our national security at grave risk,” said Trump.

The authors labeled this claim by Trump as false. “Refugees do not overwhelm communities because U.S. officials usually place them in different parts of the country,” they note. “There is no evidence that refugees, many of them women and children, endanger national security. Trump often makes false claims associating immigrants with crime. No leading Democrat running for president voiced support for unlimited refugee admissions, though Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren favored raising the annual cap from 18,000, where Trump said it after a clampdown in 2019, to more than 100,000.”

Trump Fabrications About the Diversity Visa Lottery: “Trump consistently mischaracterizes the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, claiming absurdly that foreign countries raffle off green cards granting legal residence in the United States,” the authors write. “In fact, a computer program managed by a State Department office in Williamsburg, Ky., randomly selects up to 50,000 immigrant visa applications per year – out of nearly 15 million in 2017 from countries with low rates of immigration.”

Trump stopped all Diversity Visa applicants from entering the United States in FY 2020 by including them in an April 2020 proclamation.

Trump Attacks on Family Immigration: “The president also invents faux facts,” according to Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly. “Over and over, Trump claimed that the Uzbekistan-born man who in 2017 was accused of killing 8 people with a pickup truck in New York had brought two dozen relatives to the United States through so-called chain migration. The actual number is zero.”

The book raises an important question: If Donald Trump’s immigration policies were actually popular and good for the country, why have journalists found he has lied or misstated facts about immigration and his policies thousands of times?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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