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President Donald Trump spent more than 80 minutes making a case for his reelection at a packed Phoenix rally on Wednesday evening.
Employing many of the same themes and talking points he had used in his State of the Union speech and to rile up crowds in New Hampshire and Iowa, he touted low unemployment and new jobs, boasted about improved life expectancy and mocked his Democratic opponents.
And, though it took him more than 45 minutes to get there, he condemned illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border and gloated about deportation numbers, drug seizures and border wall progress.
His claims, some of them specifically geared toward an Arizona crowd, generated plenty of enthusiasm — although the "Build the wall!" chant heard at past campaign events was absent.
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Here's a closer look at what Trump said Wednesday, with analysis from Arizona Republic reporters.
On the cost of illegal immigration
What Trump said: Trump said illegal immigration costs Arizona taxpayers “more than $2 billion every year."
The facts: Trump appeared to be referring to an outdated report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates against illegal immigration. The 2012 report estimated that unauthorized immigrants cost Arizona $2.4 billion, estimating Arizona’s 2010 undocumented population at 390,000.
That population estimate appears to be inflated, however: It's higher than the 350,000 unauthorized immigrants the Department of Homeland Security estimated resided in Arizona in 2010 and the Pew Research Center's estimate of 325,000.
FAIR also included in its $2.4 billion estimate costs such as K-12 education, which amounted to $1.3 billion, or 54% of the total, and the cost of limited English proficiency education, which amounted to another $279 million, or nearly 11% of the total. Those figures didn’t distinguish between children born in the U.S. (and, thus, U.S. citizens) whose parents were in the country illegally, and immigrant children who are not U.S. citizens.
FAIR also included in its estimate the $259 million cost of providing Medicaid to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, who, again, are citizens.
Arizona’s undocumented population has decreased considerably in both number and share since 2010, according to estimates by Pew, which means the costs of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers has also likely fallen.
On an Arizona murder
What Trump said: “Democrats’ open borders policies are harming and killing innocent lives,” Trump said, citing a Phoenix case where "an illegal alien chased a man through a parking lot and shot him in cold blood, and then walked over to the victim and shot him four more times right in the face as he lay dying in the street.” Trump said the shooter "had previously been deported after serving six years in prison.”
The facts: Trump was referring to 26-year-old Victor Garcia, an unauthorized immigrant who was charged with shooting 34-year-old Jesus Valazquez last year. Garcia had served six years in an Arizona prison after being convicted of aggravated assault in 2011, and had previously been deported.
According to court documents, Garcia had a handgun and fired several shots at Valazquez, who fell to the ground shortly after being struck. Multiple witnesses saw Garcia approach Valazquez and shoot him three or four times in the face while he was still on the ground.
On illegal border crossings
What Trump said: Trump said his administration had "reduced illegal border crossings for eight straight months in a row." He said illegal crossings are down 75% since last spring, and January "saw the fewest illegal crossings in two years.”
The facts: Since reaching a peak of 132,856 border apprehensions in May 2019, the number of migrants agents encountered along the U.S.-Mexico border has continued to decrease significantly, according to Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for patrolling the nation’s borders.
In January, agents apprehended 29,200 migrants along the border, a 78% decrease compared with May’s peak. It’s also the fewest number of migrants detained at the border since February 2018, when agents apprehended 26,666 people.
The pressure Trump exerted on the Mexican government this past summer to stop Central Americans traveling through the country on the way to the U.S. to claim asylum was a key factor in the drop. Mexico deployed its National Guard and has vastly increased the number of Central American migrants it apprehends and deports.
The Trump administration also implemented policies restricting access to asylum for Latin American migrants. In January 2019, the Department of Homeland Security rolled out its Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as "Remain in Mexico." More than 60,000 people have been sent back to await the outcome of their proceedings.
On 'catch and release'
What Trump said: The president said his administration ended the practice of "catch and release," referring to the release of asylum seekers to the care of relatives already living in the U.S. with a notice to appear in court at a later date.
The facts: In September, then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced an end to catch and release. But, since then, DHS has continued to release hundreds of asylum seekers into the interior of the country.
What has changed: The U.S. government has generally not released migrants from Central and Latin America. They are, for the most part, sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols or to Guatemala under an agreement with the U.S. to take in asylum seekers — even though Guatemala is one of the countries where most people are fleeing gang violence and poverty.
According to Teresa Cavendish, the director of Tucson migrant shelter Casa Alitas, DHS has continued to release an average of 20 people a day in Tucson alone. “The families still being released are Mexican asylum seekers, outside the hemisphere, families with children under one year of age, pregnant women six months or more, and significant illnesses or injuries,” she said.
On border wall progress
What Trump said: The president said progress on the border wall was moving "faster than ever," and "we will soon be almost one new mile a day.”
The facts: Customs and Border Protection said construction crews have built 119 miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border since Trump took office. The administration’s goal is to complete a total of 450 miles by the end of 2020, meaning they have 330 miles left to build with 315 days left in the year.
The Trump administration already redirected nearly $6 billion in funds from the Defense Department to CBP to build approximately 300 miles of new border barriers. It has also signaled intentions to divert $3.8 billion from the Pentagon. This week, DHS issued waivers to expedite construction along 177 miles along the entire southwest U.S. border.
In other words: CBP generally has the money needed to start building the remaining 330 miles of border wall. But other projects are happening at the same time, and the agency has not committed to the mile-a-day pace.
What Trump said: "Unemployment has reached its lowest rate in over 51 years, half a century," the president said. He also said the average unemployment rate under his administration is the lowest for any president in U.S. history.
The facts: The unemployment rate, 3.5% in December, is indeed at its lowest in decades. The average unemployment rate during Trump’s first 35 months was 3.9%, compared with an average monthly rate of 7.4% under Barack Obama, 5.3% under George W. Bush and 5.2% under Bill Clinton.
However, employment records haven't been kept for the entire history of the country — that began in the 1950s. Unemployment likely was lower during World War II, with so many people working as part of the military.
On the economy at large
What Trump said: The president boasted that “our economy is the best it has ever been."
The facts: "Best ever" is subjective.
If Trump was referring to household net worth, the unemployment rate or the number of jobs created, it's likely true. By other measures, such as the country's gross domestic product, it is not so.
According to the most recent official estimate, GDP grew by 2.3% last year. It grew 2.9% in 2018 and in 2015, before Trump took office. It grew 3.8% in 2004 and 3.5% in 2005.
A slowdown is expected this year: A recent Wall Street Journal survey of business and university economists predicted an average of 1.9% GDP growth for this year.
On preexisting conditions
What Trump said: Contending that Democrats had failed on health care, Trump said he is protecting people with preexisting conditions and that his administration "always will."
The facts: Protecting people with preexisting conditions by preventing insurance companies from denying them coverage is actually one of the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law pushed by Obama.
Christopher Robertson, a professor of law at the University of Arizona and author of the 2019 book, “Exposed: Why Our Health Insurance is Incomplete and What Can Be Done About It,” said Trump's administration "has not proposed, much less passed, any legislation of their own that would protect people with pre-existing conditions."
On prescription prices
What Trump said: Trump said he is working with U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, to lower prescription drug prices and that they are making “a lot of progress." He also said his administration had approved a record number of generic drugs, which are much cheaper than non-generics.
The facts: It's true that, under Trump's leadership, the Food and Drug Administration has approved more generic drugs than in the past. That's one important mechanism for bringing down drug prices, but many of those approved generics have not actually made it to market, Robertson said.
Trump may be making progress on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, but right now, that’s hard to measure. There has been no substantial or sustained decrease in drug prices under the Trump administration, Robertson said, and high drug prices remain a persistent problem for Americans and a top priority for candidates in the 2020 presidential race.
On health insurance plans
What Trump said: Democrats gave Americans the “worst health care,” and his administration is making health care better and “much, much cheaper.” The cost of plans has gone down under his leadership, he said.
The facts: It’s true that Americans can now buy insurance that’s not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, and they won’t have to pay a financial penalty like they did under Obama, as Trump removed them.
But those non-compliant plans, often called “skinny” or “junk” plans, don't offer better health care. A consumer could buy one only to discover the plan does not cover health services they need, such as maternity care, mental health care, prescription drugs and preexisting conditions.
The price of premiums on the health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, which sell private insurance and allow consumers to qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for it, have stabilized in recent years. But Trump has not supported those exchanges, commonly known as "Obamacare." Under Trump, funding for marketing and outreach to educate consumers about "Obamacare" plans has been slashed, and the enrollment period has shortened.
On life expectancy
What he said: Life expectancy is rising again in the U.S.
The facts: Trump is correct. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics said that in 2018, life expectancy in the U.S. rose for the first time in four years.
Experts say it’s too early to tell whether this is a trend, however, and people in other high-income countries tend to live longer than people in the U.S.
Recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that life expectancy from birth in the U.S. is 78.6 years old. That’s worse than 28 other countries.
Republic reporters Russ Wiles, Adrienne Dunn and Molly Stellino contributed to this article.
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This article originally appeared on The Republic | azcentral.com: President Trump Arizona rally: Facts on immigration, economy, health claims