As President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday to bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall, he again painted a portrait of a lawless, chaotic border and cited arguments about the effectiveness of the kind of barrier he has in mind that were not rooted in facts.
Illegal border crossings have been declining for decades. While families are overwhelming an immigration system devised to handle single men, a border wall would not prevent them from seeking asylum, which is legal. Research does not show that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. And a wall would do little to prevent drugs and human trafficking at the border, as official ports of entry are the main route into the United States for both.
Cumulatively, Mr. Trump’s unsupported or misleading statements undercut his rationale for declaring an emergency, a step that is widely viewed as testing both constitutional and political norms and is sure to draw legal challenges.
What Was Said
“In El Paso they have close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall. And they had 23 murders. It’s a lot of murders. But it’s not close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall in Mexico.”
This is misleading.
Mr. Trump is correct that there were 23 murders in El Paso last year, compared with more than 1,200 murders in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. But the disparity predates the existence of border barriers separating the two towns.
In 2007, the year before border fencing construction began, El Paso reported 17 murders while Juárez recorded about 320 homicides, before the drug war between cartels escalated.
In 2010, after the barriers were largely completely, El Paso recorded five murders before the number increased to 16 murders a year later. That same year, murders in Juárez topped 3,600 before declining to over 2,000 in 2011.
What Was Said
“When you look and when you listen to politicians — in particular, certain Democrats — they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”
Mr. Trump was referring to the flow of drugs across the border and disputing arguments that most smuggling takes place not in remote areas where a wall might be built but through authorized border crossing points, or ports of entry. The relevant statistics come from Mr. Trump’s own agencies, not Democrats. Data from Customs and Border Protection shows that 80 percent to 90 percent of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl is seized at ports of entry (marijuana is the exception). The Drug Enforcement Administration noted that a “small percentage of all heroin” is seized at areas between ports of entry.
What Was Said
“You can’t take human traffic — women and girls — you can’t take them through ports of entry.”
You can. For example, the Justice Department recently detailed how an international sex trafficking ring committed visa fraud to transport women from Thailand into the United States and coerce them into the sex trade.
About 80 percent of human trafficking victims passed through official ports of entry, according to a decade’s worth of data collected by the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative. The Polaris Project, a group that works to prevent human trafficking in the United States, said in a statement that out of nearly 50,000 cases it has handled, “the vast majority of victims” arrive through ports of entry.