FACT CHECK: Trump Speech On Border Security 'Crisis' Amid Shutdown President Trump used his first prime-time address from the Oval Office to make the case for a $5.7 billion border wall. That demand and Democrats' opposition has led to a partial government shutdown.
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FACT CHECK: Trump's Oval Office Pitch For A Border Wall

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FACT CHECK: Trump's Oval Office Pitch For A Border Wall

FACT CHECK: Trump's Oval Office Pitch For A Border Wall

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're taking some time this morning to dive into President Trump's first primetime address from the Oval Office. He spoke last night for about 9 1/2 minutes, making his case for a multibillion-dollar border wall with Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVAL OFFICE ADDRESS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

GREENE: The president spoke about drugs coming across that border.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVAL OFFICE ADDRESS)

TRUMP: Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.

GREENE: And Trump repeatedly said criminals have been crossing that border.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVAL OFFICE ADDRESS)

TRUMP: In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 violent killings.

GREENE: OK, let's spend some time doing some fact-checking here with NPR's Joel Rose, who covers immigration. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: All right, so let's start with that last bit we heard from the president, 266,000 immigrants with criminal records over the past few years.

ROSE: That number is basically right, but it does not tell you the whole story.

GREENE: OK.

ROSE: Many of those immigrants were convicted of nonviolent offenses - things like traffic violations, immigration offenses, including illegal entry. And also, keep in mind those are immigrants who were targeted for arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The folks who are showing up at the border are actually much less likely to have criminal records. And in general, immigrants are less likely than native-born people to commit crimes.

I mean, the president likes to point out individual anecdotes with sympathetic victims, which is something he did again last night. But by focusing on these gruesome examples, his critics say he's exaggerating the overall threat of immigrants and is really playing to fears about immigration that are just not warranted by the facts.

GREENE: OK, let's move on to what the president said about drugs flowing across the southern border. Interesting, I found, that he talked a lot about drugs but didn't return to an argument that he's been making recently, which is that terrorists have been crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. So what did you make of all that?

ROSE: Right. You know, there are drugs passing through the southern border - right? - a lot of them. But the majority of them come through in cars and trucks that pass through legal ports of entry. And it's not clear that a border wall would do a lot to slow or stop them.

GREENE: You're not going to put a border wall on a legal checkpoint, where cars are coming through.

ROSE: Exactly. And you're also right that Trump did not mention terror or terrorists last night. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was challenged in an interview with Fox News over the weekend when she implied that the administration has caught thousands of terrorists trying to sneak over the southern border. In fact, Homeland Security has intercepted thousands of suspected terrorists. But nearly all of them were trying to get into the country through airports, not - not across the border.

GREENE: Well, give us a sense of who is crossing the southern border into the U.S.

ROSE: Well, overall illegal immigration is way down from decades ago. What has changed, really, is the makeup of the migrant flow. We've seen record numbers of families coming from Central America, kids and parents showing up at the border together - also large numbers of unaccompanied children, who often turn themselves in - all of these people - and ask for asylum.

Customs and Border Protection says its facilities are just largely unprepared to deal with families and kids. And we saw two deaths of young migrant children in CBP custody last month for the first time in 10 years.

GREENE: Yeah, something we've been reporting on and exploring a lot. So after the president spoke, we heard from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi giving the Democrats' response. What did you make of that after seeing it?

ROSE: Well, you know, they accused the president of misleading the country and playing on people's fears to try to make a case for the wall. Here's a clip from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: The fact is the women and children at the border are not a security threat. They are a humanitarian challenge, a challenge that President Trump's own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened.

ROSE: And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats also want stronger borders. They just disagree with the president about how to do it. However, as the president pointed out last night, Schumer and other Democrats have supported border barriers at other moments in the past.

GREENE: Oh, so that's a valid point that Trump made about Democrats supporting...

ROSE: Exactly.

GREENE: ...Border barriers at times in the past.

ROSE: Exactly.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Joel Rose covers immigration for NPR, helping us doing some fact-checking after the speeches from the president and also from Democrats last night. Joel, thanks.

ROSE: Hey, you're welcome.

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