AP FACT CHECK: Trump on collapse of immigration effort
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is blaming Democrats for abandoning the young immigrants whose legal status is up in the air because of a step he took six months ago.
Those immigrants, who arrived in the United States illegally as children, became a bargaining chip in legislation that collapsed this past week as Trump sought tougher border enforcement and limits on legal immigration, proposing steps that many Republicans as well as Democrats would not support. On other fronts, Trump struck off notes on the economy and the price tag of wars.
A look at a sampling of recent statements:
TRUMP: “Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats...totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.” — tweet Friday.
THE FACTS: Regardless of fault in the legislative wrangling, the “Dreamers” were put on notice in September about their potential legal jeopardy when Trump announced his administration would end DACA — the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution and used that as an opportunity to get money for his border wall and other steps on immigration.
Several bills came forward that would have protected the young immigrants and strengthened border security; all failed. Hanging that all on Democrats is problematic. The bill patterned after Trump’s immigration priorities was the least popular, defeated by 60 votes with only 39 in favor. More than one-quarter of his fellow Republicans abandoned him and voted against the measure.
It would have provided a chance for citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, a Democratic priority, while including $25 billion for the border wall, tighter curbs on relatives whom legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and an end to a visa lottery that encourages immigration from diverse nations.
The young immigrants are in limbo as a March 5 deadline approaches. Federal courts have blocked Trump from ending the program on that date but the immigrants face growing risks of deportation as their protections expire.
TRUMP: “Black unemployment is at the lowest level in history. Hispanic unemployment is at the lowest level in recorded history, which is really something that’s so great.” — remarks to state and local officials at the White House on Monday.
THE FACTS: Wrong on both counts. Trump was citing outdated numbers. Ten days earlier, the government reported the black jobless rate jumped nearly a percentage point to 7.7 percent in January, higher than most of last year and barely below the 7.8 percent of January 2017 when Trump took office. It indeed hit a record low of 6.8 percent a month earlier.
Hispanic unemployment also rose in January, though marginally. The rate stood at 5 percent, up from 4.9 percent the month before and from the record low of 4.8 percent seen in April 2006 and several months last year.
The next day, Trump accurately cast the record on black joblessness in the past tense: “We had the lowest African-American unemployment rate in the history of our country.”
Jobless figures for blacks and Hispanics can jump around from month to month, such that any record can be short-lived. The unemployment rate for whites is consistently much lower than for the other groups, now 3.5 percent.
TRUMP: “I do have to say that we do have a pool of 100 million people, of which some of them — many of them — want to work; they want to have a job. A lot of them do better not working, frankly, under the laws. And people don’t like to talk about it. But you’re competing against government. And they have great potential. They sort of want to work, but they’re making less if they work than if they stay home and do other things. So we have to address that situation. That’s a big problem. But we have a pool of 100 million people, a lot of whom want to work.” — meeting with lawmakers Tuesday about trade.
THE FACTS: “Some of them” is true. But that’s not true for most.
Out of Trump’s pool of 100 million (actually 95.7 million, according to the government), only about 5.2 million say they want to be working. The vast majority is made up of students age 16 and over, the elderly and people who want to stay home to raise their children. That information comes from the same government survey used to calculate the unemployment rate.
The economy is already considered to be close to full employment, meaning it’s harder to find workers to fill new jobs — harder still if Trump succeeds in curbing immigration.
Few economists blame social programs keeping large numbers of people at home and out of work, as Trump appeared to do. Instead, recent economic research suggests opioid addiction is a key reason many Americans can’t get or keep jobs. And past episodes of widespread imprisonment are also a factor: Having a criminal conviction makes it hard for people to find work once they are out of jail.
TRUMP: “This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!” — tweet Monday.
TRUMP: “I said this morning as of a couple months ago, we have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East — $7 trillion. What a mistake. ... $7 trillion in the Middle East, and the Middle East is far worse now than it was 17 years ago when they went in.” — remarks at White House infrastructure event.
THE FACTS: There’s a lot wrong with his $7 trillion figure. First, he’s using an inflated estimate on the cost of wars. Second, he’s referring in part to predicted costs going decades into the future, not money that’s all been “spent.”
Third, some of the spending he calls a “mistake” reflects his own policy decisions. It finances the military effort he brags about against Islamic State militants and his continuing push for U.S. aims in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He’s added a few thousand troops in Afghanistan and committed the U.S. to remaining there indefinitely.
The Pentagon estimates that wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have directly cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.5 trillion. To be sure, actual costs are higher.
Boston University political scientist Neta C. Crawford, as co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University, estimated that as of September, U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria — plus additional spending on homeland security, the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department since the 2001 terrorist attacks — cost more than $4.3 trillion.
That rises to an estimated $5.6 trillion or more when anticipated future spending on veterans and other factors related to the wars so far are added.
Although that’s an expensive commitment, it’s far short of the $6 trillion or $7 trillion that Trump has been citing for several years, first as a candidate, then president. Even scholarly estimates involve ballpark projections, not just money that is gone.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Christopher Rugaber and Josh Boak contributed to this report.
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