Fact-checking Trump’s border speech and DACA offer
President Donald Trump laid out a broad immigration deal in an address from the Diplomatic Reception Room on Saturday that would fund his signature border wall in exchange for temporary protections for more than one million immigrants.
“This is a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace,” Trump said.
The proposal is similar to one Trump handed over to Congress earlier this month. It includes funds for humanitarian assistance, technology, border agents, law enforcement personnel, and immigration judges. Trump laid out additional concessions Saturday that include providing three years of deportation relief to about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children and 300,000 immigrants with temporary protected status.
The address comes amid a record-long government shutdown. Trump’s $5.7 billion budget request for his border wall is at the center of the fight. The latest proposal is an attempt to bring Democrats to the table, but it’s unclear the new concessions will win them over. Shortly before the President’s address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement rejecting the proposal.
“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter,” she said.
Trump began by drawing on familiar talking points that he’s previously used to address what he describes as a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border, acknowledging the violence migrants face in transit to the US.
Below is a breakdown of Trump’s speech and some of the proposals he laid out:
“There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action.”
While there’s been a recent uptick in apprehensions along the southern border, the numbers are still shy of the more than one million apprehensions from the early 2000s.
Available Customs and Border Protection data shows a total of 396,579 people were apprehended by the US Border Patrol for fiscal year 2018 at the southwest border, which would mean an average of 1,087 each day. The numbers differ each month. The highest number of apprehensions was in September, with a daily average of nearly 1,400.
Apprehensions are still well below historic highs. In the early 2000s, for example, annual apprehensions routinely topped 1 million. After hitting an historic low in 2017 of around 300,000, apprehensions increased in fiscal year 2018 to nearly 400,000.
There’s been an uptick in unaccompanied minors and families approaching the US-Mexico border, many of whom are seeking asylum. Deteriorating conditions in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) are among the reasons that some have decided to make the journey.
In 2016, nearly half of the people apprehended at the US-Mexico border came from these three countries, compared with roughly 10% in 2010, according to Homeland Security Department data.
“One in three women is sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey north. ”
Indeed, the trek to the US-Mexico border has been reported to be violent. According to data from Doctors Without Borders, 68.3% of migrants and refugees “entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States,” and nearly one-third of women said they’d been sexually abused. But this very violence is also why women have chosen to travel in caravans.
He also cited the flow of drugs across the southern border.
“Heroin alone kills 300 Americans a week, 90% of which comes across our southern border.”
While Trump’s statistics on heroin deaths are true, it’s unclear what a border wall would do to reduce the amount of heroin coming across the border.
The CDC reported that in 2017, a total of 15,482 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin in the US. That averages out to about 297 individuals each week. In addition, the DEA’s Heroin Signature Program, which analyzes heroin samples to determine where they were manufactured, determined that heroin from Mexico made up 86% of the samples analyzed in 2016.
However, the majority of heroin that comes across the southern border is smuggled in privately-owned vehicles and tractor-trailers at legal ports of entry, where the drug is co-mingled with legal goods, according to the DEA’s 2018 annual drug threat assessment.
Trump continues to make the case that a border wall will help solve these issues.
“[A border wall] will save many lives and stop drugs from pouring into our country.”
The majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, as cargo, or with people who attempt to enter the US legally. The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to information from CBP and the DEA.
For example, the majority of the heroin flow on the southern border into the US is through privately owned vehicles at legal ports of entry, followed by tractor-trailers, where the heroin is co-mingled with legal goods, according to the DEA’s 2018 annual drug threat assessment.
The DHS presentation says there was a 38% increase in methamphetamine at the southern border from 2017 to 2018.
There was an increase in both methamphetamine and fentanyl seizures at both ports of entry and between the legal entry points over the past year, but the percentage is unclear since data for the last month of fiscal year 2018 is unavailable.
A closer look at the numbers shows that in fiscal year 2018, Customs and Border Protection seized 67,292 pounds of methamphetamine at legal ports of entry, compared with 10,382 pounds by Border Patrol agents in between ports, based on available data.
After laying out his case for a crisis on the border, Trump then pivoted to detailing the concessions he was making to the Democrats.
“Number one is three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA recipients.”
This is similar to a proposal from last year. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, along with five other senators, introduced legislation in the last Congress that did just that: The measure, then referred to as the BRIDGE ACT, extended protections for those who qualify and allowed them to work legally in the US for three years. The requirements are similar to those of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and allows them to work.
The BRIDGE Act would not provide them a pathway to citizenship.
Ahead of the President’s address, Durbin released a statement rejecting the proposed offer.
The Trump administration tried to end DACA in September 2017. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the phase out of DACA, arguing that it was created “without proper statutory authority.” Then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke then formally rescinded the program. Under the administration’s original plan, protections would have begun to expire in March 2018. But a slew of legal challenges and subsequent court rulings have kept the program alive.
Plaintiffs, including the University of California, a handful of states, and DACA recipients argued that the phase-out violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations.
Three federal judges have ruled that the justification and the manner by which the administration terminated DACA was flawed. But the Supreme Court has not said whether it will take up the case.
“Secondly, our proposal provides a three-year extension of Temporary Protected Status or TPS.”
The TPS program allows immigrants who have been displaced by natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other events to live and work in the US. More than 300,000 people have permission to work in the US under TPS, according to the Pew Research Center.
Trump proposed extending protections for three years to TPS holders, while, he said, Congress worked on a comprehensive immigration bill.
The Trump administration has tried to strip some TPS holders of their status, arguing that the program was intended to be temporary, as implied by the name. It’s incumbent on the government to review conditions in a given country and decide whether to renew designations. Previous administrations have allowed them to continue in many cases. As a result, many TPS holders have been in the US for years.
Last year, a federal judge blocked the administration’s attempt at ending protections for 300,000 people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.
How does this contrast with last year’s bipartisan bill that addressed DACA?
In February of last year, Democrats supported a bipartisan bill that would have not only provided a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients but also provided $25 billion in border security which would contribute to a border wall and border-related security. Trump, however, lambasted the bill calling it “a total catastrophe” at the time. The deal fell short of the 60 votes it needed, 54-45, and was opposed by the GOP conference and a handful of Democrats.
That same day, another bill was defeated that would’ve provided a path to citizenship for DACA recipients but included no money for Trump’s border wall.
The President’s new proposal would not provide a pathway to citizenship for those DACA recipients and would provide $5.7 billion for physical barriers.
What’s next for the shutdown negotiations?
While lawmakers will be back on the Hill Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Durbin have already voiced opposition to Trump’s proposal.
In her press release prior to the President’s speech, Pelosi said that she planned on rejecting Trump’s leaked proposal.
“Initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives,” the statement read. “Each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.”
The speaker went on to mention six bills she planned on Democrats passing in the house to reopen the government.
“First, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today,” a press release from Durbin’s office said. “Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported and do not believe it can pass the Senate.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican lawmakers supported Trump’s proposal.
“I intend to move to this legislation this week,” a press release from McConnell’s office said on Saturday. “With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well.”
For now, it looks like the government shutdown remains in a stalemate.