Donald Trump claimed “millions of migrants”, including “some of the worst people on Earth”, are flooding into the country and causing “incalculable damage”, one of many false or hyperbolic statements he made during a town hall event on Fox News focused on Joe Biden and his policies at the US-Mexico border.
“It’s incalculable how bad this is,” the former president told host Sean Hannity, responding to an audience question about Joe Biden’s “open borders agenda.”
“You have not hundreds of thousands, but millions of people storming into our country,” Mr Trump went on, saying these migrants include “some of the worst people on Earth.”
In fact, most of the people crossing into the US at the Southern border are families and children from Central America fleeing violence, poverty, corruption, and climate change. Additionally, analyses show undocumented migrants commit far less crime, while immigrants contribute more in tax revenue than they receive in government benefits, for which they are often ineligible if they lack citizenship status.
US borders are also far from “open,” with the Biden administration turning away most adult border-crossers, while nearly 15,000 children were being held in immigration detention centres as of mid-June.
The comments came as the former president arrived in South Texas on Wednesday for a visit to the border, part of a multi-state political comeback tour that included his first major post-presidency rally in Ohio.
During his conversation with Fox’s Hannity, Mr Trump continued his long history of making inflammatory exaggerations about migrants and the border, much as he did when he announced his first campaign in 2015 with a speech saying, in part, that migrants were “rapists” who were “bringing crime”. “We never had it better, and now we’ve never had it worse,” Mr Trump said of the changes at the border.
This, like most of his claims about immigration, only has a glancing relation to the facts. It’s true that during the Biden administration, a record number of unaccompanied minors have crossed the US-Mexico border, and, if trends continue apace, the country could see an overall record number of apprehensions.
But the idea that Donald Trump’s immigration agenda represented a clear, historical outlier in terms of a functional immigration system is far from accurate.
According to statistics compiled by the Congressional Research Service, immigration numbers during the Trump years were fairly consistent with those stretching back to 2020, with comparable numbers of apprehensions at the border. Rather than Mr Trump singlehandedly reducing immigration, it was more that he rode the tale end of an anomalous period, where border crossings were at their lowers for more than three decades.
What is unprecedented, however, are the myriad ways he slashed asylum numbers functionally to zero, especially by the end of the Covid crisis, and stranded tens of thousands of asylum seekers, pursuing their legally protected claims in the US, on the Mexico side of the border in squalid tent camps, where they were vulnerable to exploitation by cartels and others.
At the town hall, the former president also reiterated his claim that his border wall played a large part in reducing migration, even though border crossings actually shot up during his final period in office until he effectively shut down the border due to ostensible Covid concerns.
All told, the administration never carried out Mr Trump’s initial promises to build a wall spanning the entire border, instead building around 80 miles of new barriers where none previously existed. “All you needed was two more months and we would’ve had it completed,” Mr Trump said. “It really had such a huge impact.”
As The Independent reported last fall, experts say its dubious at best that the wall had any impact on overall migration flows, though it clearly did lead to a surge in migrant deaths, as border-crossers sought increasingly remote areas to cross into the country that weren’t walled off.
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