U.S. President Barack Obama delivered an address to the nation Thursday night that outlined his plan to tackle the country’s “broken” immigration system. Obama said he will use executive authority to beef up border security, deliver a faster track for high-skilled working immigrants to remain in the country and provide temporary deportation relief to unauthorized immigrants who meet certain criteria. Obama also made several claims in his speech that cited progress in immigration enforcement since he took office in 2009. The following is a breakdown on which are fact and which are fiction.
Obama: “Over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half.”
This is unclear because data on the total number of illegal border crossings in the last six years are not readily available. The amount of individuals apprehended at U.S. borders, however, has in fact decreased. The numbers for 2014 are not yet available, but there was a 42 percent decrease of unauthorized immigrants apprehended by border security between 2008 and 2013. More than 723,000 foreign nationals were apprehended by the Border Patrol in 2008, and 420,789 were apprehended in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Obama: “Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years.”
There wasn’t just a “brief spike” over the summer. The number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing our border has been on the rise since 2011, when approximately 16,000 children were found crossing the southwest border. That number has surged, and 68,541 children were apprehended this year by border security, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In 2013, there were 38,759 unacompanied alien children at the southwest border.
Obama: “Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.”
Unauthorized border crossings are now at their lowest levels since 1971, which is “a likely indication that fewer unauthorized migrants are trying to cross,” according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
Obama: “I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate…. Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.”
In April 2013, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation that would build up border security, allow more work-related immigration and provide a clear path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who have already been living in the country. The bill met a dead end, however, in the House of Representatives and was blocked from a vote. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it was an “Obama-Reid plan to give illegal immigrants amnesty.”
Obama: “Over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent.”
The numbers for 2014 are not yet available, but between 2008 and 2013, there was an 88 percent increase in the number of illegal immigrants removed by criminal status. In 2008, 105,266 criminal aliens were removed, and 198,394 were removed in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.