Tired of cable news talking heads screaming at each other about the border wall crisis and the government shutdown? Overwhelmed by the fusillade of administration lies? Unsure about the real facts?
Well, we’ve got a handy guide to all the falsehoods you’ll likely hear tonight in President Trump’s big immigration speech at 9 p.m. And to track the preponderance of mistruths, here’s a bingo board you can print out at home.
- Claim: Trump has consistently expressed alarmist sentiments about illegal immigration across the southern border—calling it an “invasion,” screaming that people are “flooding our country,” and calling it a crisis.
Truth: In truth, apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border are at their lowest level since the early 1970s, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statistics.
- Claim: Trump likes to recite a litany of crimes he claims are committed by Mexicans and Central American immigrants, almost always emphasizing the few tragic cases of Americans injured or killed by illegal immigrants.
Truth: In truth, illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans (about 56% fewer convictions, according to the Cato Institute).
- Claim: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Friday that 3,000 “special interest aliens” had been apprehended trying to enter the country from the southern border, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that 4,000 suspected or known terrorists had entered the country illegally, implying that it was through the southern border.
Truth: But “special interest aliens” is a term that applies to anyone who comes from a country that has ever produced a terrorist, as Fox News’s Chris Wallace noted. And the overwhelming majority of the 4,000 cited by Sanders were taken into custody at airports.
- Claim: Trump has also mongered the fear with such claims, including this one in the Rose Garden last Friday: “We have terrorists coming through the southern border because they find that’s probably the easiest place to come through. They drive right in and they make a left.”
Truth: Yet that’s not the case according to his own State Department, which issued a report in September finding “no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
- Claim: Trump has also repeatedly invoked unbelievably high numbers—up to $275 billion—to express the cost of illegal immigration.
Truth: The real cost and benefit of undocumented immigrants is incalculable, since it’s hard to determine, and some crucial metrics are impossible to calculate. (That said, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector did a rough calculus a few years ago of services received minus tax contributions and came up with $54 billion a year, much lower than Trump’s figure.)
- Claim: The meme of Trump’s campaign was that Mexico will pay for a border wall. The number of times that he has said, “and Mexico will pay for it!” is countless.
Truth: But Mexico has consistently said that it would never pay for such a wall.
- Claim: More recently, the administration has insisted that it would be paid for through the North American Free Trade Agreement currently being renegotiated, adding that the deal would pay for the structure “many, many times over.”
Truth: But trade experts have noted that none of the changes being made to NAFTA will be a major revenue driver.
- Claim: Trump recently tweeted that only criminals would oppose a border wall.
Truth: But polls have consistently showed that a majority of Americans oppose the wall, including a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll in late December and a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier that month (which found that only 35% supported including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill).
- Claim: Trump has said that some of his predecessors have “told me that we should have” built the wall.
Truth: But all four former living presidents have denied telling him that.
- Claim: Trump has said that federal workers, many of whom have been furloughed without pay, are the “biggest fans” of the government shutdown.
Truth: There’s no evidence for this claim and the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union with more than 700,000 members, has expressed its opposition to the shutdown.
- Claim: At the Rose Garden news conference last Friday, Trump said that drug smugglers “don’t go through the ports of entry. When they do, they sometimes get caught.”
Truth: Actually land ports of entry are the primary way that drugs get into the country, not barren stretches of the border, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the DEA, the most common technique is to hide drugs in cars or trucks as they drive into the U.S. through entry ports, where they are subject to inspection.