In his first formal address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Donald Trump painted a picture of a national threat and humanitarian crisis occurring along the US-Mexico border, saying his signature border wall would provide a solution.
Here’s a partial rundown of the President’s statements and the context:
Trump: “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.”
It’s very difficult to know exactly how much or little undocumented immigrants cost the United States. Many experts contest the notion that undocumented immigrants are a strain on the economy. A 2017 analysis noted that undocumented immigrants “make considerable tax contributions,” for example.
Similarly, a 2018 study by the libertarian Cato Institute, which reviewed criminal conviction data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, found that immigrants — legal or illegal — are less likely than native-born Americans to be convicted of crimes. Throughout the country, there is also generally a decrease in the number of violent crimes, according to the FBI.
Trump: “The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
Even if the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement ends up raising tax revenue, there’s nothing earmarking that money for a wall. Income and corporate taxes are general revenue that would have to be appropriated by Congress.
Another way trade could bring money into the Treasury is through tariffs — which are paid by American importers when they buy foreign goods. But like the original North American Free Trade Agreement, the new deal aims to keep trade between the three countries largely tariff-free.
Trump: “1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”
Trump acknowledged the violence migrants face in transit to the US, saying: “1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims by far of our broken system. This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border.”
Indeed, the trek to the US-Mexico border has been reported to be violent. According to data from Doctors Without Borders, 68.3% of migrants and refugees “entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States,” and nearly one-third of women said they’d been sexually abused. But this very violence is also why women have chosen to travel in caravans.
Trump: “Sen. Chuck Schumer has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past.”
This is correct but context is key. Schumer previously supported legislation to build physical barriers on the US-Mexico border. Most notably, Schumer and other Democrats supported the 2006 Secure Fence Act that authorized the construction of several hundred miles of fencing along the border, but not a wall. However as long as the government remains shut down, Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have refused to offer any funding for a border barrier.
Trump: “More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.”
Some 58,220 Americans died as a result of the Vietnam War. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of total drug overdose deaths was 70,327.
However, the President’s assertion is misleading, conflating the drugs coming across the US-Mexico border with total drug deaths in the US. In addition, it’s not currently known whether overdose deaths will increase or decrease when the CDC releases 2018 data later this year.
Trump’s figures also do not distinguish between deaths caused by drugs smuggled into the country versus those prescribed by US doctors.
The majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, cargo or with people who attempt to enter the US legally. The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to information from CBP and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Trump: “At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.”
Democrats have long been strenuously opposed to Trump’s campaign promise that he would build a concrete wall on the US-Mexico border. But they did not propose a steel barrier as an alternative. Rather, Democrats have continued to oppose the construction of any new steel or concrete barrier on the southern border. They have only kept the door open to funding a border barrier as part of a broader immigration deal.