PresidentDonald Trump’s zero tolerance policy ― which refers all unauthorized migrants crossing the border for criminal prosecution ― has led to officials separating more than2,000 children from their parents. In an executive order last week, he halted family separations at the border, opting instead forlocking up immigrant parents and kids together indefinitely.
In trying to justify the harshimmigrationcrackdown, Trump and top members of his administration have repeatedly lied or made unsupported claims about undocumented immigrants, U.S. immigration policy and what is happening at the border.
Here’s a fact-check on some of the misleading statements and outright lies that Trump and his officials have spread about immigration and the zero tolerance policy.
1. Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the scale of the “crisis” of unauthorized immigration on the border.
At aCabinet meeting, Trump said his administration was “acting swiftly to address the illegal immigrationcrisison the southern border.” Thepresidenthas also repeatedly used fearmongeringlanguagein tweets about immigrants, saying they would “invade” or “pour into and infest” the U.S.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short has also defended Trump’s zero tolerance policy, saying in an interview on CNN: “We have a crisis at the border. We have a difficult choice.”
FACTS: According to a Customs and Border Protection report, the rates of unauthorized crossings at the U.S. borderin 2017 were“at the lowest level… on record.”
When looking at the government’s statistics for the first half of 2018, the rate of unauthorized entries, while higher than last year’s, areconsistent with ratesover the past five years: The Border Patrol apprehended 51,900 people at the southwest border in May 2018, compared with 19,900 in the same month of 2017 and 55,400 in May 2016.
The Border Patrol’s own data show that it’s not really catching an usually large number of people along the Southwest border as compared to the recent past—& fewer than 2 of the last 5 yearshttps://t.co/cCK4IJujEspic.twitter.com/tBO5t2bcTf— César (@crimmigration) June 25, 2018
2. Trump repeatedly associated undocumented immigrants with high crime.
Last week, Trumptweetedthat Democratic lawmakers should “start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration.” Days later he tweeted again that they “don’t care aboutCrime coming from Border.”
“I always hear that, ‘Oh, no, the population is safer than the people who live in the country,’” Trumpsaidat an event he held, with parents whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “I say, is that possible? The answer is, it’s not true.”
FACTS: There isno evidenceto support claims that immigrants commit more crime than U.S. citizens. In fact, according tomultiple studies, immigrants — both documented and undocumented — areless likely to commit crimesthan U.S. citizens.
In a study published in Marchin the Criminology journal, researchers looking at crime statistics from 1990 to 2014 found that “increases in the undocumented immigrant population within states are associated with significant decreases in the prevalence of violence.”
3. Trump lied about 63,000 people being killed by undocumented immigrants since 9/11.
At an event Trump held last week, the presidentclaimedthat 63,000 Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
FACTS: That is aninaccurate figure thatoriginally appeared in a 2006 blog post by Rep. Steve King(R-Iowa), reportedThe Washington Post. King is an immigration hard-liner who recentlypromoted a neo-Nazion Twitter. The White Housedid not respondto HuffPost’s requests for comment last week on Trump’s source for the figure.
4. Trump has falsely associated MS-13 with undocumented immigrants.
In recent years, Trump hasrepeatedlypointedto MS-13― agang started in Los Angelesthat spread to other U.S. cities and Central America ― as a reason for stronger immigration enforcement. He has claimed that the gang has “literally taken overtowns and cities.”
Just last week, amid a fierce public outcry against his zero tolerance immigration policy, Trumptweetedthat Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”
FACTS: Thegang is certainly violent and poses a significant security problem in El Salvador and other Central American countries ― but in the U.S., it’snot much of a threat nationwideat all and is present onlyin small pockets, such as on Long Island and in Los Angeles.
According to U.S. Border Patrol, in 2017 officers apprehended more than 300,000 unauthorized immigrants at the border. Of those, only228 were alleged to be MS-13 gang members.
What’s more, experts say most MS-13 recruits in the U.S.are not migrantsbut teens who already live in the United States, reported The New York Times.
5. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen perpetuated a false narrative that MS-13 was using kids to pose as families at the border.
At a White House press briefing last week, Nielsen suggested that MS-13 gang members were crossing the border and falsely claiming to be the parents of migrant children.
“The kids are being used [as] pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers,” shesaid. “Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13, those are criminals, those are abusers.”
FACTS:There were 31,102 “family units” apprehended at the border in the first five months of fiscal year 2018, The Washington Post reported. In that time, there were191 casesof “individuals using minors to pose as fake family units,” according to DHS. That’sless than 1 percent. And it’s not clear how many, if any, of the cases involved traffickers or gang members.
6. Trump falsely blamed Democrats for family separations.
Trump tweeted amid public outrage against his border crackdown last week: “Why don’t the Democratsgive us the votes to fix the world’s worst immigration laws?” and “It is the Democrats faultfor being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime.”
In an interviewwith Fox Newson Friday, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan againperpetuatedthe president’s lie, saying, “If the American public wants to know who to blame for family separations, the first people they need to blame is Congress.”
FACTS: The zero tolerance policy that led to the separations of parents from kids wasthe Trump administration’s own policy,announcedby Attorney General Jeff Sessionsin May.
The president has always had the power to end the family separations ― as shown through his executive order last week doing just that (albeit replacing it with indefinite family detentions).
7. Some Trump officials said the zero tolerance policy was not meant as a deterrent. Others said it was.
DHS Secretary Nielsen wasaskedat a White House press briefing last week whether the administration’s tough immigration policies leading to family separations were meant to send a message of deterrence to migrants considering trying to cross the border illegally. Nielsen reportedly said she found such a suggestion“offensive.”
That’s likely because changing immigration detention policy to deter migrants may make itillegal.
FACTS:White House chief of staff John Kellysaid in Maythat family separations would serve as “a tough deterrent” to immigrants trying to cross the border illegally.
Last week, Steve Wagner, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services,saidthat the family separation policy would have “a deterrence effect.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham also asked Sessions inan interview last week, “Are you considering this a deterrent?”Sessions said: “Yes.Hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border unlawfully.”
Regardless of its intent, the policy likely won’t halt the flow of migrants to the U.S. Experts on Central America, journalists in the region and migrants themselveshave all saidno amount of reports of tough policies at the border, including family separations, were likely to stop people trying to cross into the U.S., as many are fleeing even tougher conditions of poverty or violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.