Morning Joe Charts: Trump’s Illegal Immigrant Falsehoods

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, I discussed Trump’s repeated falsehoods about illegal border crossings, which in truth remain near historic lows. Additionally, this segment of the population is far less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.

As with so many other issues, President Trump is taking substantial liberties (in other words, uttering falsehoods) about the issues with families and individuals trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States.

For starters, Mr. Trump’s contention that illegal border crossings have exploded rests on an idiosyncratic comparison. This chart shows the number of border apprehensions month by month, for this year and for each of the four previous years. It shows that the number of apprehensions this spring has been very similar to what occurred in each of those previous years, except for last year. So in making his assertion, Mr. Trump is relying on a false comparison.

Spring is also the traditional seasonal high point for apprehensions (2017 also being aberrational on this cyclicality) so they are likely to decline as we approach fall.

To put this into a longer context, this chart shows that border apprehensions remain at an exceptionally low level. Indeed, they peaked at more than 1.6 million in 2000 and have been more or less consistently declining over nearly two decades. While they are likely to modestly increase over last year’s level, note that they would still be at or near the lowest levels since 1971.

Also note that a significant decline occurred around the time of our financial crisis, when employment opportunities in the United States were limited. Interestingly, even though jobs are again plentiful in the United States, illegal immigration has not risen. That’s partly because of better border security but also falling birthrates in Mexico combined with better employment prospects there. Today, many of the attempted crossings are families from Central America fleeing chronic gang violence and seeking asylum.

In announcing his candidacy for president in 2015, Mr. Trump famously said that illegal Mexican immigrants were “rapists” who were “bringing crime,” (along with some “good people.”) Mr. Trump should be aware by now that even illegal immigrants have a far lower incarceration rate that native-born Americans. (This chart shows the incarceration rate per 100,000 for people between 18 and 54.) Lastly, note that for legal immigrants, the incarceration rate is even lower.