AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s visa lottery system doesn’t exist
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is looking for a fix to a problem that doesn’t exist — stopping foreign countries from picking out troublesome people for a lottery to move to the U.S. They don’t get to do that.
He’s talking about the diversity visa program, which bears little resemblance to his common portrayal of it. Trump’s mischaracterization of the program on the weekend followed a speech to conservatives Friday that drifted off the facts on the economy, the environment and more.
A look at his recent rhetoric:
TRUMP: “I mean we actually have lottery systems where you go to countries and they do lotteries for who comes into the United States. Now, you know they are not going to have their best people in the lottery, because they’re not going to put their best people in a lottery. They don’t want to have their good people to leave. ... We want people based on merit. Not based on the fact they are thrown into a bin and many of those people are not the people you want in the country, believe me.” — Fox News phone interview Saturday night.
THE FACTS: That’s not how it works.
The lottery program is run by the U.S. government, not foreign governments. Other countries do not get to sort through their populations looking for bad apples to put in a “bin” for export to the U.S. Citizens of qualifying countries are the ones who decide to bid for visas under the program.
The program requires applicants to have completed a high school education or have at least two years of experience in the last five years in a selection of fields identified by the Labor Department. Out of that pool of people from certain countries who meet those conditions, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of winners. Not all winners will have visas ultimately approved, because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly. Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
The lottery is extended to citizens of most countries, except about 20. The primary goal is to diversify the immigrant population by creating slots for underrepresented parts of the world.
TRUMP on the Obama-era mandate to buy health insurance or pay a fine: “That’s gone.” — Conservative Political Action Conference, Friday.
THE FACTS: It’s not gone. People still risk fines this year if they go without health insurance. Under a law that has been enacted, the fines will disappear in 2019.
TRUMP: “We passed the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country.” — CPAC speech.
THE FACTS: Trump’s tax cuts are not the largest in history, despite his frequent claims that they are.
In comparisons using 2012 inflation-adjusted dollars, his cuts average about $130 billion a year, compared with $208 billion a year for President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut package, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget of the Senate proposal that shaped the final overhaul. President Barack Obama cut taxes by a larger average than Trump, in 2010 and 2013, when he made permanent the temporary cuts enacted by President George W. Bush.
Analyses of earlier versions of Trump’s tax cut proposals, when they were considerably larger than they eventually became, found that his package lagged Reagan’s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several others when measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product. That’s another common yardstick used by economists for historical comparisons.
TRUMP on the Paris climate accord, which he has announced the U.S. will leave: “Basically, it said, ‘you have a lot of oil and gas’ ... and basically, they were saying, ‘Don’t use it. You can’t use it.’” He added: “They called India a developing nation. They call China a developing nation. But the United States? We’re developed. We can pay.” — CPAC speech.
THE FACTS: That’s a misrepresentation of the accord on several fronts. First, emission targets in the accord are voluntary, determined by individual nations, and they can be made stronger or weaker by each country. So while the agreement is aimed at achieving more clean energy, nothing in it stops the U.S. from exploiting its petroleum reserves.
Second, Trump is stating a distinction between developed and developing nations that was relevant in the decades-old Kyoto Protocol on global warming but is largely meaningless in the Paris agreement.
Such differential treatment “has nothing to do with the Paris Agreement,” said Henry “Jake” Jacoby, founding co-director of MIT’s Joint Center on the Science and Policy of Global Change, in an email. “The Paris Agreement does NOT ... impose specific differential action among countries regarding greenhouse emissions abatement.”
It merely affirms a “moral” obligation for richer countries to help poorer ones achieve a cleaner energy future, he said.
Nigel Purvis, an international law expert who was a State Department climate negotiator both in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, said no country is obligated to make financial payments to any other country under the Paris accord. “That is exactly what the Bush administration and Congress said they wanted instead of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which did have different obligations for developed and developing nations,” he said.
TRUMP on the Paris accord: “You know, China — their agreement didn’t kick in until 2030. Right? Our agreement kicks in immediately.” — CPAC speech.
THE FACTS: No. The accord already affects China, which pledged to peak its emissions by 2030, not to wait until then to take action.
“That means gradual slowdown in the growth of their emissions between now and then,” said John Sterman, director of the Sloan Sustainability Initiative at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “To reach an emissions peak by 2030 China must deploy policies to reduce coal use and promote renewables now — and has been.”
The U.S., before Trump, pledged to cut its emissions by 25 percent to 28 percent, below 2005 levels, by 2025.
TRUMP on coal: “And West Virginia, now, is doing great. You look at what’s happening in West Virginia, you look at what’s happening in Pennsylvania, you look at what’s happening in Ohio and you look at what’s happening in Wyoming — you look at what’s happening all over — it’s like a — it’s like a different world.” — CPAC speech.
THE FACTS: Coal has not come roaring back and West Virginia’s economy, in particular, still struggles.
Nationwide, coal mining has added just 1,100 jobs in Trump’s first year and the industry now employs 51,800. That reverses five years of declines, but back in 2013 coal mining employed 78,400. Abundant natural gas has become a cheaper alternative to coal for many power plants and is a key reason for the coal industry’s long-term struggle.
West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in December, the latest data available, compared with 4.5 percent in May and little changed from when Trump took office in January 2017.
The national unemployment rate has fallen since May and was 4.1 percent in December. West Virginia has added just 1,500 jobs since Trump’s inauguration, a 0.2 percent gain. That’s below the nationwide increase of 1.3 percent.
Wyoming hasn’t gained any jobs since January 2017. Its unemployment rate has fallen from 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent, partly because fewer people are looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.
Pennsylvania has added jobs and its unemployment rate has fallen in the past year. But coal doesn’t appear to have much to do with it. The biggest job gains were in professional and business services, which include engineering, accountants and architects, and a separate category mostly made up of hotel and restaurant jobs.
Ohio has also improved overall: Its unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in December from 5 percent when Trump took office. The state added 35,000 jobs, a 0.6 percent gain, also below the national average. Its job gains were mostly in education and health care, hotels and restaurants, and manufacturing.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
State Department information on diversity visas: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/diversity-visa-program-entry/diversity-visa-program-statistics.htmlHistorical tax cut analysis: https://tinyurl.com/y8ktlfn3
Coal jobs: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
State jobless rates: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/laus.pdf
Primer on Paris accord: https://tinyurl.com/ybtokzcd
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