Republicans Make Wild Claims About The Dangers Of Immigration. Here’s The Truth
Trump and his cronies are leaning into five splashy talking points about illegal immigration. But the facts are a bit different.
Trumpist Republicans are using the surge of illegal immigration at the southern border of the US, as well as a surge of migrants seeking legal asylum, to threaten a government shutdown and no added funds for Ukraine.
They’re using five lies to make their case.
1. They claim Biden doesn’t want to stem illegal immigration and has created an “open border”.
Rubbish. Since he took office, Biden has consistently asked for additional funding for border control.
Republicans have just as consistently refused. They’re voting to cut Customs and Border Protection funding in spending bills and blocking passage of Biden’s $106bn national security supplemental that includes border funding.
2. They blame the drug crisis on illegal immigration.
Last Wednesday, at the southern border in Texas, the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, claimed that “America is at a breaking point with record levels of illegal immigration. We have lethal drugs that are pouring into our country at record levels.”
Rubbish. While large amounts of fentanyl and other deadly drugs have been flowing into the United States from Mexico, 90% arrives through official ports of entry, not via immigrants illegally crossing the border. In fact, research by the Cato Institute found that more than 86% of the people convicted of trafficking fentanyl across the border in 2021 were US citizens.
3. They claim that undocumented immigrants are terrorists.
Johnson also charged that “312 suspects on the terrorist watch list that have been apprehended – we have no idea how many terrorists have come into the country and set up terrorism cells across the nation.”
Baloney. America’s southern border has not been an entry point for terrorists. For almost a half century, no American has been killed or injured in a terrorist attack in the United States that involved someone who crossed the border illegally.
Johnson’s number comes from government data showing that from October 2020 to November 2023, 312 migrants – out of more than 6.2 million who crossed the southern border during these years – matched names on the terrorist watch list.
It’s unclear how many were actual matches and whether the FBI considered them national security threats (the watch list includes family relations of terrorist suspects, many of whom are not considered to be involved in terrorist activity).
4. They say undocumented immigrants are stealing American jobs.
Nonsense. Evidence shows immigrants are not taking jobs that American workers want.
And the surge across the border is not increasing unemployment. Far from it: unemployment has been below 4% for roughly two years, far lower than the long-term average rate of 5.71%. It’s now at 3.7%.
5. They claim undocumented immigrants are responsible for more crime in the US.
More baloney. In fact, a 2020 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cited by the Department of Justice, showed that undocumented immigrants have “substantially” lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants.
Similarly, a recently published study in the American Economic Journal – analyzing official data from 2008 to 2017 on immigration, homicide and victimization surveys – found “null effects” on crime from immigration.
Notwithstanding the recent surge in illegal immigration, the US homicide rate has fallen nearly 13% since 2022 – the largest decrease on record. Local law enforcement agencies are also reporting drops in violent crime.
Who’s really behind these lies?
Since he entered politics, Donald Trump has fanned nativist fears and bigotry.
He’s now moving into full-throttled neofascism, using the actual rhetoric of Hitler to attack immigrants – charging that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” and saying they’re “like a military invasion. Drugs, criminals, gang members and terrorists are pouring into our country at record levels. We’ve never seen anything like it. They’re taking over our cities.”
He promises to use the US military to round up undocumented immigrants and put them into “camps”. That demagoguery is being echoed by Trump lackeys to generate fear and put Biden on the defensive.
Does the US need to address the border situation? Yes – which Biden is trying to do. But we need to do so in a way that treats migrants as humans, not political pawns.
Trump and his enablers want Americans to forget that almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants who fled persecution, or were brought to the US under duress, or simply sought better lives for themselves and their descendants.