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Debunking Immigration Myths Before State of the Union Address

Written by Kendra, IJPC Intern

Recently the National Immigrant Justice Center released a brief to counter some of President Trump’s claims over immigration.  Here we will break down these claims with the facts and explain how the President manipulates data to perpetuate these false claims and uses it to continue enacting policies that “erode due process, increase incarceration of communities of color, and strip legal protections from immigrants.”

Claim #1:  President Trump states that only a fraction of immigrants seeking asylum at the southern border actually qualify and that most are attempting to “game the system.”

Facts:  In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order calling for higher standards for asylum seekers.  Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents have also intentionally reduced the number of asylum seekers processed each day.  Lastly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made it more difficult for survivors of gang-related and domestic violence to establish eligibility for asylum.  These changes make it appear that less individuals are seeking asylum. Those that are able to seek asylum are having more challenges than ever getting asylum granted.  All of these issues have increased the denial rates for rates for asylum applicants from 54.6% in 2016 to 65% in 2018.

Claim #2:  President Trump has stated that immigrants “never show up” to court and the Director for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) stated that providing full legal representation for children is ineffective in getting them to appear in court.  

Facts:  The EOIR’s own data shows that at least 60% of immigrant families appear for court hearings despite often not having legal representation.  This statistics jumps to over 98% when families have legal representation and to over 95% for minors that are represented. The bleak truth is that there is no right to counsel for immigrants that cannot afford private representation.  On the other hand, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is represented in each proceeding by its own federal counsel. This makes it a mucher steeper hill for immigrants to climb. In fact, those that have attorneys are 5 times more likely to win their cases than those without.  

Claim #3:  The Trump administration states that the largest percentage (66%) of those arrested by ICE are convicted criminals.

Facts:  Criminal conduct includes entry and reentry offenses and is the leading type of conviction for “criminal-aliens.”  Subsequently, in 2018, U.S. Attorneys were instructed to prosecute all migrants entering between ports of entry, which led to a 30% increase from the month before.  Many CBP agents were already limiting the amount of individuals processed legally at the ports of entry each day which led to many feeling they had no other choice than to cross without permission.  Therefore, it appears that the administration is manipulating these statistics in order to vilify immigrants and say they are a danger to the U.S.


The National Immigrant Justice Center. (2019, January 29). Policy Brief | The Trump Administration’s Manipulation of Data to Perpetuate Anti-Immigrant Policies