When President Donald Trump delivers his Oval Office immigration address Tuesday night, he will almost certainly say things that are demonstrably false and have already been debunked by fact-checkers. The hard part is knowing just which medley of fabrications he will reach for to depict a fake border security crisis. He will likely rely on old favorites, but there is always the possibility that he will simply make up a number on the spot.
All major networks will air Trump’s speech. Back in 2014, when former President Barack Obama asked for airtime for a major immigration announcement, the networks turned him down, choosing to air programs like The Biggest Loser instead. The fact that Trump, unlike Obama in 2014, is not expected to announce significant policy changes Tuesday night raises further questions about why the networks are carrying it live.
With the United States in the third week of a shutdown over the president’s demand for $5 billion of wall funding, Trump needs to show that border security justifies the chaos caused by his decision to force the government closed. Below are some of the falsehoods Trump is most likely to use to make that case when he starts speaking at 9 p.m. Eastern.
It’s a crisis
Trump will likely frame the shutdown as a response to a security and humanitarian crisis at the border. It’s hard to believe Trump—who was forced to abandon a policy of forcibly separating migrant families—cares much about a humanitarian crisis that primarily affects Central Americans, so let’s set that aside for now. His claim that there’s a security crisis that requires a wall to solve is more obviously false. The number of migrants “apprehended” by Border Patrol agents has increased this year, but is still far below the averages under former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. The word “apprehensions” is also misleading, because families, a record number of which are coming to the United States, are often actively seeking out Border Patrol agents and then requesting asylum. Border Patrol stopped about two people per agent per month in the 2018 fiscal year.