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AP FACT CHECK: Trump on the ‘lawless’ US border with Mexico

February 6, 2019
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The total number of migrants arrested.;

WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at one of President Donald Trump’s statements from his State of the Union address on Tuesday night and how it compares with the facts:

TRUMP: “The lawless state of our Southern Border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans.”

THE FACTS: “Lawless” is way overblown.

Border Patrol arrests, a useful if imperfect gauge of illegal crossings, are relatively low on the Mexican border. There was a 30 percent annual jump in the 2018 fiscal year, to 396,579 from 303,916, but that was coming off a 46-year low. Last year’s tally was down 76 percent from a peak of more than 1.6 million in 2000.

Instead of trying to elude capture, many people turn themselves in to U.S. officials to seek asylum or other form of humanitarian protection. U.S. border authorities fielded 92,959 “credible fear” claims — the initial step toward asylum — in the 2018 fiscal year, up 67 percent from 55,584 the previous year. The “credible fear” claims accounted for 18 percent of all people arrested or stopped at the Mexican border in the latest period, up from 13 percent a year earlier.

Yes, border crossings have risen sharply in the last months, but that’s driven by an increase in families. There were more than 60,000 people stopped crossing the border illegally or at an official crossing with Mexico in each month from October to December. The number topped 60,000 only four months in the previous five years, during the spring and summer of 2014 and in the waning months of Barack Obama’s presidency.

About half of Border Patrol arrests are families, a dramatic change from several years ago that, to many, suggests a humanitarian crisis but not a security crisis.

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