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Updated 2:34 AM  |  January 9, 2019
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Trump does not accurately describe migrant children illegally brought into the United States

“Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.” — President Trump

No government statistic tracks children smuggled in by bad actors, “coyotes” or drug gangs. What Trump is referring to is CBP’s number for family unit apprehensions and unaccompanied minors. The family unit by definition must include at least one parent or legal guardian and one minor. (There’s a separate figure for unaccompanied alien children.)

DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said the December total for apprehensions of unaccompanied children and those with family members was 19,313. But it’s wrong to describe it as a statistic that represents children being smuggled into the country.

Trump describes this as children being smuggled in by coyotes or gangs, but border officials screen for false claims of parentage. To imply as Trump does that a child’s mother, father or legal guardian is or hired a smuggler, coyote or gang member in all of these cases is wrong.

The Post’s Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff reported that, between April 19, when the trend was first suspected, and Sept. 30, the end of the 2018 fiscal year, CBP agents separated 170 families after determining that the child and adult traveling together were not related. That equals about 0.25 percent of all family units apprehended.

(Correction: A previous version of this story said Trump understated the number of migrant children apprehended last month at the southern border, based on November data. The December data, which DHS released after Trump’s speech, show the number is around 20,000, as Trump said. The story incorrectly described the way U.S. Customs and Border Protection counts children and family members who are caught attempting to cross the border, or “family unit apprehensions.” The term refers to a monthly tally published by the agency of the total number of children, parents or legal guardians who are caught together at the border, not the number of families.)

Democrats had supported a fence at the border

Trump in his address said that Sen. Charles E. Schumer “has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected.”

Schumer, Hillary Clinton and many other Democrats voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized building a fence along about 700 miles of the border between the United States and Mexico. It passed 283-138 in the House, with 64 Democrat votes, and 80-19 in the Senate, with 26 Democrat votes.

But the fence they voted for is not as substantial as the wall Trump is proposing. Trump himself has called the 2006 fence a “nothing wall.”

‘266,000 aliens arrested in the past two years’: The number is right but misleading

It’s important to keep in mind that this figure includes all types of crimes, including nonviolent offenses such as illegal entry or reentry.

In fiscal 2018, ICE conducted 158,581 administrative arrests for civil immigration violations. The agency’s year-end report says 105,140 of those (66 percent) involved people with criminal convictions and 32,977 with pending criminal charges. Of the 143,470 administrative arrests in 2017, 74 percent involved people with criminal records and 15.5 percent who had pending charges.

So the numbers add up, but they’re misleading. The total covers all types of offenses, including illegal entry or reentry. ICE does not break down arrests by type of crime, but 16 percent of the total charges and convictions (not arrests) in 2016 were strictly immigration offenses.

The trade deal does not pay for the wall

“The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.” — President Trump

Trump often says the wall will be paid for by the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, a claim he repeated tonight.

This is a Four-Pinocchio claim. During the campaign, Trump more than 200 times promised Mexico would pay for the wall, which the administration says would cost at least $18 billion. Now he says the minor reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement will earn enough money for pay for the wall. This betrays a misunderstanding of economics. Countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits, so there is no money to earn; the size of a trade deficit or surplus can be determined by other factors besides trade. Congress must still appropriate the money, and the trade agreement has not been ratified.

Most imported heroin comes through legal points of entry

“Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90% of which floods across from our southern border.” –President Trump

In 2017, more than 15,000 people died of drug overdoses involving heroin in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That works out to about 300 a week.

But while 90 percent of the heroin sold in the United States comes from Mexico, virtually all of it comes through legal points of entry. “A small percentage of all heroin seized by CBP along the land border was between Ports of Entry (POEs),” the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2018 report. So Trump’s wall would do little to halt drug trafficking. Trump’s repeated claim that the wall would stop drug trafficking is another Bottomless Pinocchio claim.

Live fact-checking and analysis of President Trump’s immigration speech

President Trump is set to make a case to a national television audience Tuesday night for long-sought border wall funding; the impasse over the wall has led to a partial government shutdown. His remarks are scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern and are expected to last about eight minutes and be carried live by all major television networks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plan to deliver a brief joint response afterward.

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