By Robert Reich
Some of you ask why I spend so much time and effort writing to you, the “converted,” rather than aim at people who disagree with us. My answer is that we are engaged in the fight of our lifetimes to uphold the fundamental ideals upon which this nation is based. Many of you can make use of data and arguments to reaffirm those ideals and help convince others who are wavering or still reachable.
Take immigration, which is being demagogued by Trump and his Republican sycophants.
Here are Trump Republicans’ five biggest lies about immigration, and the truth.
1. They claim Biden doesn’t want to stem illegal immigration and has created an “open border.”
Rubbish. Since he took office, Biden has consistently asked for additional funding for border control.
Republicans have just as consistently refused. They’re voting to cut Customs and Border Protection funding in spending bills and blocking passage of Biden’s $106 billion national security supplemental that includes border funding.
2. They blame the drug crisis on illegal immigration.
Last Wednesday, at the southern border in Texas, Republican House Speaker Michael Johnson claimed “America is at a breaking point with record levels of illegal immigration. We have lethal drugs that are pouring into our country at record levels.”
Rubbish. While large amounts of fentanyl and other deadly drugs have been flowing into the United States from Mexico, 90% arrives through official ports of entry, not via immigrants illegally crossing the border. In fact, research by the conservative Cato Institute found that more than 86% of the people convicted of trafficking fentanyl across the border in 2021 were U.S. citizens.
3. They claim that undocumented immigrants are terrorists.
Johnson also charged that “312 suspects on the terrorist watch list that have been apprehended — we have no idea how many terrorists have come into the country and set up terrorism cells across the nation.”
Baloney. America’s southern border has not been an entry point for terrorists. For almost a half-century, no American has been killed or injured in a terrorist attack in the United States that involved someone who crossed the border illegally.
Johnson’s number comes from government data showing that from October 2020 to November 2023, 312 migrants — out of more than 6.2 million who crossed the southern border during these years — matched names on the terrorist watch list. It’s unclear how many were actual matches and whether the FBI considered them national security threats (the watch list includes family relations of terrorist suspects, many of whom are not considered to be involved in terrorist activity).
Republican Representative Mark Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that FBI “Director Wray admitted before my committee the other day … that with the border wide open and a war in Israel, Hamas can just walk right in. That’s the director of the FBI. He fears for his own agents. It’s clear this is intentional.”
Alarmist rubbish. At that November 15 hearing, after Green asked Wray whether people on the terrorism watch list could be among those who entered the country without detection, Wray replied that there was no way to know. When Green then asked whether Wray could guarantee that Hamas wasn’t among them, Wray said, “What I can tell you is that our 56 joint terrorism task forces are working their tails off to make sure that they suss out and identify potential terrorist suspects, whether they’re on the watch list or not.”
4. They say undocumented immigrants are stealing American jobs.
Nonsense. Evidence shows immigrants are not taking jobs that American workers want. And the surge across the border is not increasing unemployment. Far from it: Unemployment has been below 4 percent for roughly two years, far lower than the long term average rate of 5.71 percent. It’s now 3.7 percent.
5. They claim undocumented immigrants are responsible for more crime in America.
More baloney. In fact, a 2020 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cited by the Department of Justice, showed that undocumented immigrants have “substantially” lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants. A recently published study in the American Economic Journal — analyzing official data from 2008 to 2017 on immigration, homicide, and victimization surveys — found “null effects” on crime from immigration.
Notwithstanding the recent surge in illegal immigration, America’s homicide rate has fallen nearly 13% since 2022 — the largest decrease on record. Local law enforcement agencies are also reporting drops in violent crime.
Who’s really behind these lies?
Since he entered politics, Donald Trump has fanned nativist fears and bigotry.
He’s now moving into full-throttle neofascism, using the actual language of Hitler to attack immigrants — charging that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” and saying they’re “like a military invasion. Drugs, criminals, gang members and terrorists are pouring into our country at record levels. We’ve never seen anything like it. They’re taking over our cities.” He promises to use the U.S. military to round up undocumented immigrants and put them into “camps.”
His demagoguery is being echoed by Trump lackeys to generate fear and put Biden on the defensive.
Do we need to address our border situation? Yes — which Biden is trying to do. But we need to do so in a way that treats migrants as humans, not political pawns.
Trump and his enablers want us to forget that almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants who fled persecution, or were brought to America under duress, or simply sought better lives for themselves and their descendants.
Know the truth, and spread it.
This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack