The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s new immigration ad was panned as racist. Turns out it was also based on a falsehood.

Luis Bracamontes smiles at the audience in Sacramento Superior Court on Feb. 9 as the verdict was read in the killing of two law enforcement officers. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The expletive-filled advertisement President Trump released this week, seemingly to raise fears about immigration in advance of the midterm elections, was widely denounced, with Democrats and even some Republicans criticizing it as racist.

But beyond the outrage, the ad was also reportedly based on a falsehood.

The 53-second video, shared by the president on Twitter, focuses on the courtroom behavior of Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant who was convicted of killing two sheriff’s deputies in California in 2014 — and repeatedly bragged about the slayings during his trial.

“Democrats let him into our country,” the ad’s script reads. “Democrats let him stay.”

Just one problem: It doesn’t appear to be true.

Bracamontes, who had been deported multiple times before his crime rampage, appears to have last entered the country while George W. Bush was president, sometime between May 2001 and February 2002, when there is a record for his marriage in Arizona, according to the Sacramento Bee.

He lived near Salt Lake City until 2014, when a methamphetamine-fueled road trip ended with him murdering two Sacramento-area deputies, according to the newspaper.

The ad also failed to mention that in 1998, Bracamontes was arrested on drug charges in Phoenix, then released by the office of then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio “for reasons unknown,” the Bee reported.

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The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

But in 2014, after Bracamontes surrendered in Northern California, Arpaio acknowledged that the killer had been arrested in his county, according to the Arizona Republic.

“He was booked into the jails I run for drug-related convictions,” Arpaio said at the time, according to the Republic. “He was evidently turned over to ICE and had been deported on two occasions.”

Bracamontes was deported under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

He was first arrested on charges related to marijuana possession in Phoenix in 1996 and sentenced to four months in jail, the Bee reported. He served his time and was deported in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president — only to reenter the country and then be deported again in 2001, soon after being arrested on more marijuana charges, according to the Bee.

But the Bee reported that Bracamontes had also been arrested in Phoenix in 1998, and that after that arrest, he was released.

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In discussing Bracamontes in 2014, shortly after his killings, Arpaio did not address the 1998 incident. Instead, he lamented federal immigration law.

“Once again we are faced with another tragedy on our hands because of a form of ‘backdoor amnesty,’ ” he said, according to the Republic.

He added, “I hate that we are finding out about this man because of the deaths of these deputies.”

Arpaio, a close Trump ally who has made waves for his hard-line immigration policies and rhetoric, was convicted in 2017 for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people on the suspicion of being undocumented immigrants. He was later pardoned by Trump.

Bracamontes has been sentenced to the death penalty in the murder case.

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