Fact Check on Trump's Recent Immigration Claims


Former President Donald J. Trump has received widespread censure after taking up a line depicting undocumented immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country.”

The comment underscored Trump's hardline approach to immigration, which has been central to his platform since he made his first run for president in 2015. If elected again, he has promised to carry out mass deportations and enact other strict policies. .

He and his Republican rivals have pointed to the surge in migrants at the southern border to make their political arguments. Some Democrats have also criticized the Biden administration's approach to immigration.

But even with legitimate lines of attack, Trump has at times resorted to baseless and misleading claims during rallies in recent months.

Here's a fact check.


“I read an article recently in a newspaper… about a man who runs a mental institution in South America and, by the way, they come from all over the world. They come from Africa, from Asia, from everywhere, but this happened to be in South America. And he was sitting, the photo was… sitting, reading a newspaper, somewhat leisurely, and they asked him: what are you doing? He says, I was very busy all my life. He was very proud. I worked 24 hours a day. I was very busy all the time. But now I'm in this mental institution, where he's been for years, and I'm in the mental institution and I worked very hard with my patients, but now we don't have any patients. “They have all been brought to the United States.”
– during a rally in Nevada this month

This lacks evidence. Trump has repeatedly claimed that migrants crossing the border come from “mental institutions” and prisons. This particular story seems to offer specific facts behind that claim, but there is no evidence that such a report exists.

The New York Times could not find any such news from the start of Biden's term in January 2021 until March, when Trump told the same story at a rally in Texas.

The Trump campaign did not respond when repeatedly asked about the source of this claim. But this year, pressured by CNN to back up the story, the campaign provided uncorroborated links.

Likewise, there is no support for Trump's broader claim that countries are “abandoning” their prisoners and psychiatric patients in the United States.

“We are not aware of any effort by any country or other jurisdiction to empty its mental health institutions or its jails and prisons to send people with mental health problems or criminals to the United States,” said Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokeswoman for the organization. non-partisan research. Migration Policy Institute, she said in an email.

The statement evokes elements of a mass exodus that occurred more than 40 years ago in Cuba, Mittelstadt said: the Mariel exodus in 1980. Some 125,000 people fled to the United States, including prison inmates and mental health institution patients released by the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“But, as far as we know, no country has made any efforts currently, nor any credible reports by the media or others that something similar is happening,” Mittelstadt said.


They've allowed, I think, 15 million people to come into the country from all these different places, like prisons, mental institutions, and wait to see what's going to happen to all those people.
— during an October rally in New Hampshire

This lacks evidence. Leaving aside the unfounded suggestion that all undocumented immigrants entering the country come from prisons and mental institutions, Trump's estimate of 15 million is not supported by the data.

Customs and Border Protection data shows that U.S. officials recorded nearly eight million encounters at its borders from February 2021, the first full month of Biden's presidency, through October 2023.

But even then, “encounter does not mean admission,” Tom Wong, associate professor of political science and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego, said in an email. “In fact, most matches end in expulsions.”

For example, CBP data shows that about 2.5 million expulsions have occurred under Title 42, a health rule that used the coronavirus as a reason to reject immigrants crossing the border illegally, since February 2021. until the policy ended in May.

The number of encounters is also based on events, not people, and therefore could include the same person more than once.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of people who have entered the country without authorization because there are also “escapees”: people who crossed into the country illegally and evaded the authorities.

But federal observational estimates from those people wouldn't support Trump's claim either. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas estimated in a recent hearing that more than 600,000 breaches had occurred in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September. That's also the estimate for fiscal year 2022, according to an inspector general report. And there were more than 391,300 in fiscal year 2021, which began in October 2020 under the Trump administration and ended in September 2021 under the Biden administration.

In terms of migrants with criminal records, officials found nearly 45,000 at ports of entry since the start of fiscal year 2021. Among ports of entry in that period, officials found another 40,000 noncitizens with criminal records.

Although in this case Trump stated that the country had allowed the entry of 15 million immigrants, on other occasions he predicted that this would be the total number at the end of Biden's term. That would be larger than the total estimated population of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States: about 10.5 million in 2021, according to the Pew Research Center.


“Over the past three years, Biden has spent more than $1 billion to house illegal aliens in hotels, some of the most luxurious in the country. Meanwhile, we have 33,000 homeless American veterans. Can you believe it?”
— during a November rally in New Hampshire

This needs context. Trump's homeless veterans figure refers to a 2022 estimate from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That figure includes about 19,500 veterans who were in shelters when the count was taken. And both the 2022 estimate and a new count for 2023, which reported nearly 35,600 homeless veterans, are actually slightly lower than when Trump was in office, continuing a general downward trend since 2009.

Regarding housing for migrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement hired a nonprofit group in 2021 to house border arrivals in a handful of hotels in Texas and Arizona, as detailed in an inspector report. national security general of 2022. The contract totaled more than $130 million and ended in 2022. The Trump administration also turned to hotels in 2020 to house migrant children and families before expelling them.

The Biden administration has not directly spent $1 billion to place migrants in hotels. But in fact, cities face high costs for housing and caring for those arriving at the border, including through hotels. The Trump campaign did not indicate where Trump had obtained the $1 billion figure, but it is possible he was referring to a federal initiative that provides funds to local governments and non-governmental groups to help offset those costs.

In fact, the program was first authorized by 2019 legislation signed by Trump. While it allows non-federal entities to seek grants to house immigrants in hotels and motels, it is not exclusive to that. Congress provided the program with $110 million in fiscal year 2021 and $150 million in fiscal year 2022.

Lawmakers recently replaced the initiative with a new shelter and services program. For fiscal year 2023, officials allocated $425 million for the old program and $363.8 million for the new one.

In total, the federal government has allocated about $1 billion since fiscal year 2021, which includes the final months of the Trump administration, to local efforts to feed and house migrants across the country, not just for hotel expenses. .

While FEMA discloses the recipients of the funds, it does not say how much each grant is used specifically toward hotel costs.


“We cannot forget that the same people who attacked Israel are now reaching levels no one can believe in our beautiful United States across our wide open border.”
during a rally in Iowa in October

This lacks evidence. Trump offered no evidence that people affiliated with Hamas, the militant group that carried out a brutal attack on Israel in early October, are “arriving” in the country at record levels. And experts say they are unaware of data to support that claim.

If the former president's statement was intended to convey that terrorists in general are “arriving” at the border, he could be referring to the growing number of encounters at the southern border with people on a terrorism watch list. The list includes known and suspected terrorists, as well as people affiliated with them.

A total of 169 noncitizens on that list attempted to illegally enter the United States across the southern border in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September, up from three in fiscal year 2020, according to CBP statistics.

Still, it's unclear what that says about the terrorist threat, said Alex Nowrasteh, vice president of economic and social policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. There is no record of a terrorist attack committed on US soil by an immigrant who illegally crossed the southern border. (In 2008, three brothers who had come to the United States illegally years earlier as children from Yugoslavia were convicted of plotting to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.)

Those detained on the list are supposed to remain in government custody while they await deportation proceedings, Nowrasteh said.

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.

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