Fact Check: Trump’s New Favorite Talking Point About Families Separated At The Border Is A Vicious Lie

As the public outrage against the Trump administration’s immoral family separation policy continues to build, Trump and his cadre of villains are scrambling to defend the indefensible.

Let’s start with some facts: the overwhelming majority of families arrested for misdemeanor border crossing are just that: families. A full 99.4% of children traveling with adults are blood relatives. That’s according to the Trump administration’s own statistics.

Unfortunately for Trump and company, that puts a damper on their efforts to paint those fleeing violence to seek asylum in the United States as violent criminals themselves. The solution they’ve settled on is to lie via manipulating these statistics.

Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave a caustic press conference where she she did just that, claiming the children they put in cages are being used “as pawns by the smugglers and traffickers”:

“Let’s just pause to think about this statistic: 314 percent increase in adults showing up with kids that are not a family unit,” Nielsen said. “Those are traffickers, those are smugglers, that is MS-13, those are criminals, those are abusers.”

Whoa, that sounds like a big increase, right? But remember, Trump’s own administration released numbers showing that 99.4% of the families from this year are, in fact, families (many of whom have had their children taken from them).

Even though it’s meant to, the big “increase” doesn’t look like a major problem when you consider the raw numbers.

The 2017 data shows that there were 46 cases of family fraud out of over 75,000 families. So far the data for this year shows there’s been 191 cases of family fraud out of over 31,000 families, which is about 6 cases in every 1,000.

Here’s a better, more honest way to look at the data:

And here’s another from some (admittedly terrible) pie graphs I made:

CUE THE PANIC!!!!! Keep in mind that Trump’s current policy means that all the real families in blue will also have their children taken from them and kenneled like animals. It’s like burning down your house because you saw a spider.

Sessions has made the same statistical distortion in his defense of the draconian policy:

“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” he recently said. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”

And Trump repeated the lie in a his prepared remarks before a group of small business owners today:

“Child smugglers exploit the loopholes and they gain illegal entry into the United States putting countless children in danger on the perilous trek to the United States.”

As for Nielsen, Trump, and Sessions’ claims that these are ALL cases of human trafficking or MS-13? Philip Bump eviscerated that bullsh*t in the Washington Post:

It’s not clear that all of those alleged smugglers were at the southwestern border. It’s not clear if more alleged smugglers are usually caught at the beginning of fiscal years. It’s not clear that all of those caught in fiscal 2018 were criminal smugglers or traffickers. What is clear is that they made up a very small percentage of the total population of family units.

This is one of the excuses Trump is using to justify his cruel policy of taking children from their parents and it completely ignores the fact that our existing policies and procedures caught these cases of alleged fraud. Moreover, we don’t even know how many of these families are cases of adoption, we just know the adults weren’t blood relatives of the children they were traveling with.

Because Trump is such a prolific and shameless liar, he’s already got a fallback lie—that the asylum seekers have actually been coached by “professional lawyer” (as opposed to those amateurs) and are just pretending to flee violence:

Trump said lawyers tell asylum seekers, “‘Say the following’—they write it down!—‘I am being harmed in my country, my country is extremely dangerous, I fear for my life.’ Say that, congratulations, you’ll never be removed!”

It’s a transparent effort to cast asylum seekers as liars, rather than people who need legal help applying for asylum, but Trump’s own speeches are rife with vivid (if somewhat hyperbolic) imagery about the violence in the countries these families are fleeing. They’re currently in panic mode, throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Don’t let it stick.

h/t: Washington Post