Monday, June 25, 2018

Fact checking President Trump on immigration; resources for reporting on the issue

We haven’t run a fact check on President Trump’s false statements recently, because they have become so common we were looking for a higher threshold. Now that he appears to be using immigration as the main issue in this year’s midterm elections, it’s time to establish the facts and share some resources for reporting on this issue.

Trump's willingness to use immigration as a stump speech mainstay was evident in a recent address at the Nevada Republican Party's state convention. "Our issue is strong borders, no crime," Trump said. "Their issue is open borders, get MS-13 all over our country. . . . We need people to come in, but they have to be people that love this country, can love our country, and can really help us to make America great again," Philip Rucker reports for The Washington Post.

However, Trump has repeatedly exaggerated, distorted, or fabricated the truth in claims on immigration. Here are a few, each with a fact check:
  •  At the signing his executive order to halt his policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained after illegally crossing the U.S. border, Trump said "We're keeping families together, and this will solve that problem." The Associated Press responds that the executive order won't solve the problem. "Trump’s executive order will continue his 'zero tolerance' policy of criminally prosecuting all adults caught crossing the border illegally, and will now seek to keep families together in detention instead of separating them while their legal cases are heard by the courts." But because of the 1997 Flores case, children can't be held in immigration detention for more than 20 days. Trump wants that settlement overturned, but the policy is still in effect. So unless Congress or the courts do something, the Trump administration could be forced to separate children from their parents in a few weeks. 
  • The Trump administration has made conflicting claims about its policies regarding families illegally crossing the border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the Trump administration doesn't have a policy of separating children from their parents at the border, but in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged that the administration's new zero tolerance policy would mean separating parents from children if they cross the border illegally, Dierdre Shesgreen reports for USA Today.
  • Trump blamed "bad laws that the Democrats gave us" for family separations and has said the administration has no choice but to enforce them, but no law requires families to be separated. Additionally, it is false that children were separated from their parents as a matter of course during the Obama administration. Instead, families who entered the country illegally were either detained together or released until their hearings. Shesgreen reports.
The Poynter Institute provides an excellent list of fact-checking tools for journalists writing about immigration as well as AP Style reminders; click here to read it.

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