Donald Trump isn’t taking a break from telling lies just because it’s the Christmas holiday. He tweeted Saturday that,
Criminal deportations in the U.S. are the lowest number in many years. We are letting criminals knowingly stay in our country. MUST CHANGE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2015
This is a variant of a favorite right wing meme.
Jeb Bush, back in August, claimed that President Obama was not deporting criminals at all, prompting PolitiFact to look into the issue and rate it as false:
“Bush points to reports that many criminal illegal immigrants have been released, and there is evidence that it sometimes happens. But it is an exaggeration to say that none are deported. Last year, ICE deported about 86,000 illegal immigrants convicted of previous crimes.”
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University published an analysis in 2014 that looked at deportations during the previous year. It found that 1,172 were deported for homicide, 3,325 for sexual assault, and 47,249 for traffic offenses.
To listen to Trump, you would think Bush is right, that the Obama administration just blithely ignores criminal activity. It does not. In fact, this anti-immigrant hysteria seems endemic on the right. Ted Cruz made a similar claim in August:
“In the year 2013, the Obama administration released 104,000 criminal illegal aliens. They released 196 murderers – people with homicide convictions, who are here illegally.”
PolitiFact looked at this claim as well and said,
We see how Cruz reached his figures. But ICE says 169 individuals with murder convictions were released and 72 percent of those releases were mandatory—out of its control. Also, 68,000 of the people Cruz described as released were never actually detained by the agency.
In July, Heritage Foundation analyst Hans von Spakovsky claimed that “134,000 (criminal) aliens have been released by the (Obama) administration in just the past two years.”
PolitiFact tackled this one too (the immigration fear-mongering is keeping them busy):
There are several flaws in this statement. About half of von Spakovsky’s total, 66,000, involved convicted criminals who had completed their sentences but remained in custody pending deportation. For some large fraction of that group, perhaps as high as 45 percent, it was a court ruling that drove the release, not a decision by the administration.
Regarding the other half of von Spakovsky’s total, 68,000, it is likely that in most cases ICE decided not to pursue deportation. However, some portion of that group might not have been deportable, and some portion might have continued to serve out a locally imposed sentence and not been released.
Republicans will keep trying and being refuted has no effect on them simply repeating the lie, or a variation of it, at every opportunity. After all, conservatives have been conditioned to trust no one but Fox News. Your conservative relations will tell you that PolitiFact swings left.
In fact, in 2011, Obama said, “the Obama administration increased the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes by 70 percent,” and this claim, unlike the others, was true. PolitiFact said that “In the first two years under Obama, the data suggest a policy shift toward prioritizing the deportation of convicted criminals. And Obama is correct that there has been a 70 percent increase.”
In 2013, as Pew reported, deportations of immigrants reached a record high, and revealed that “the number of deportations of those with a criminal conviction has stalled at around 200,000 for the past two fiscal years.”
In 2014, in an immigration speech, Obama said that “deportations of criminals are up 80 percent.” FactCheck.org reports that “an independent analysis of deportation data found the increase is driven largely by the removal of individuals ‘whose most serious conviction was an immigration or traffic violation.'”
In fact, “the number of individuals deported who have been convicted of any criminal offense apart from an immigration or traffic violation has actually declined,” according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which collects and analyzes immigration data.
Ironically, as PolitiFact points out,
The deportation guidelines changed in November 2014, when Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memo saying that the new top priority would include those suspected of terrorism, gang members and convicted felons. The second priority level includes those convicted of serious misdemeanors. The guidelines are more narrow and specific than the ones it replaced from 2010-11.
So if the Obama administration changes its focus to terrorism, and there are fewer terrorists than traffic violators, doesn’t it stand to reason that the percentages would change accordingly? And shouldn’t conservatives be happy, rather than sad, that this is the case?
That would be too much to expect, of course. The fact is, yes, there are immigrants, legal or otherwise, who are criminals, just as there are citizens who are guilty of criminals. The truth is, Obama has deported more immigrants than any president in U.S. history.
Conservatives love to target blacks and immigrants (and now Muslims) as the problem groups, but most white folks are being killed by white folks. In playing to fear, neither Trump nor any of his fellow candidates have facts on their side.
This ceaseless fear mongering about immigrants will no doubt continue to garner support for those who repeat it, but it isn’t helping the country and it won’t make America great again because immigrants aren’t the problem. If Trump won 2016 and did all he promised, America would be no better for it, and in fact, would be worse off.
The haters can’t see this, of course. They’re as consumed with hate as Trump is with himself. What they are all missing of course is that none of them are running against Barack Obama. If he thinks attacking Obama is the way to defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, he has some rethinking to do.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.