An Immigration Attorney Fact-Checks Last Night's Presidential Debate
Although the issue of U.S. immigration was not a main topic in last night's presidential debate, Mr. Trump managed to get in some of his talking points. Secretary Clinton was largely quiet on this topic, not responding to Mr. Trump's remarks. Below are the two main points that Mr. Trump made and how his statements stand up to the facts:
1. Immigrants do not commit more crimes
When asked about race relations in America, Trump responded, “We have gangs roaming the street. And in many cases, they’re illegally here, illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very strong. And we have to be very vigilant.”
My Verdict = FALSE: As the CATO Institute Report shows, Mr. Trump is promoting a false narrative by alleging that illegal immigrants, or immigrants for that matter, are more likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.
For more see the TIME magazine article posted last night in response to Mr. Trump's comments here.
2. Over 858 individuals with final deportation or removal orders were Naturalized
Mr. Trump stated, "The other day we were deporting eight hundred people and perhaps they pressed the wrong button --they pressed the wrong button-- or perhaps worse than that it was corruption. But these people we were going to deport … for good reason ended up becoming citizens--ended up becoming citizens. And it was eight hundred and now it turns out, it might be fifteen hundred and they don’t even know.”
My Verdict = MOSTLY FALSE: The 858 people mentioned in the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report, "Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records," that Mr. Trump is referring to, had final orders of deportation or removal at the time their naturalization application was reviewed and adjudicated. Mr. Trump is correct about that and he is correct that the number is actually higher (1,811 total), if you include the number of individuals who had final orders of deportation or removal who are now naturalized citizens who may not have had digital fingerprints on file at the time they naturalized.
Mr. Trump, however, is incorrect to allege that corruption is to blame or that we do not know what happened. Before 2008, there was no federal digital fingerprint process and it was much harder to affirm that an applicant did not have another identity. The digital fingerprint system has been in place in full for a few years and now and has greatly improved USCIS's ability to verify who a person is. I can tell you first hand that USCIS has its problems and the immigration system is very confusing and a tedious process to navigate, but this is clearly a result of antiquated technology taking time to be replaced. No immigration system will ever be perfect, perfection is idealistic.
Mr. Trump also implies that all 858 of these individuals should not be citizens. The fact is that just because you have a previous order of deportation or removal does not, in and of itself, mean that you are ineligible for citizenship. It also does not mean that any of these people committed fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining their citizenship. All it means it that their immigration history shows a deportation or removal order. Removal and Deportation Orders can be terminated or vacated at a later date for any number of reasons (Hence the title of the OIG Report that begins, "Potentially Ineligible Individuals...").