FACT CHECK: President Trump’s Pitch For A Border Wall And Democratic Response

President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office Jan. 8, 2019. CREDIT: Carlos Barria-Pool/Getty Images
President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office Jan. 8, 2019. CREDIT: Carlos Barria-Pool/Getty Images

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BY SCOTT HORSLEY, JOEL ROSE & JIM ZARROLI

President Trump made his case to the American people Tuesday night for why a massive wall along the Mexican border is necessary, using his first Oval Office address to outline his conditions for ending the 18-day-and-counting partial government shutdown.

“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said, explaining why his request for $5.7 billion to build the wall and for additional border security measures is necessary.

Here we check some of the arguments made by the president and top Democrats in their response.

Trump’s Speech

Claim 1: Humanitarian and security crisis

“There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our Southern border.”

Fact check: Illegal border crossings in the most recent fiscal year (ending in September 2018) were actually lower than either 2016 or 2014 and much lower than at their peak around 2000. The number of unauthorized border-crossers is also dwarfed by the number of people who overstay their visas. But there has been a spike in crossings in the past few months, topping 60,000 in both October and November. And while illegal crossings are still well below the levels of a generation ago, the makeup of the traffic has changed. There are now many more children and families from Central America, who present different challenges than single adults from Mexico.

Many of the Central American migrants are seeking asylum, citing a fear of violence or persecution back home. While the majority of these asylum claims are ultimately rejected, assessing them can take months or years. In the past, asylum-seekers were typically released into the U.S. during this period, a practice the Trump administration criticizes as “catch and release.” The administration wants to detain migrants while their asylum claims are adjudicated. This has led to overcrowded detention centers. And under a court order, young migrants generally cannot be detained for more than about 20 days. (The administration tried to get around that last year with its ill-fated and short-lived family separation policy, to allow indefinite detention of adults while children were turned over to the Health and Human Services Department or resettled with family members.) Importantly, most asylum-seekers turn themselves in to U.S. authorities, which they could do with or without a border wall.

Claim 2: Driving down jobs and wages

“All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.”

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