Fact check State of the Union: What to know about the border before Trump's 2019 address
Border Patrol Trains at Anapra Border Fence El Paso Times
AUSTIN — When President Donald Trump delivers his second official State of the Union address on Tuesday, he is expected to discuss immigration policies, border security efforts and his pitch for a border wall.
Trump has been stressing the need for a physical barrier along the border between the United States and Mexico since his campaign for the presidency and the evidence he uses to support his pitch hasn't changed much either.
Take a look at the information you need to know about realities on the border before Trump's speech tonight.
How many people are apprehended at the border?
During his visit to Texas in early January, Trump said there have never been as many apprehensions as there are right now — a false statement he offered after a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen.
This statement can be refuted by looking at data from just the past three fiscal years, the unit U.S. Customs and Borer Protection uses to categorize apprehensions at the border.
In Fiscal Year 2018, CBP apprehended 396,579 people between ports of entry. In Fiscal Year 2016, they apprehended 408,870.
Going back further, apprehension numbers from several different years are significantly higher than they were in 2018.
Between Fiscal Years 1995 and 2000 roughly 1.2 million to 1.6 million people were apprehended annually by CBP between ports of entry.
But not all people who enter the country illegally do so by crossing the southern border.
A growing number of people enter the country illegally after being admitted on non-immigrant visas and then overstayed the term of their visa, according to a 2017 report from the Center for Migration Studies.
The report found that in 2014, about two thirds of the people who entered the United States illegally were those who overstayed their visa.
How many immigrants who enter the country illegally stay in the United States?
An estimated 12 million immigrants were living in the country illegally as of January 2015, the most recent estimate available from the Department of Homeland Security. Five years earlier in 2010, it was estimated that 11.6 million immigrants were living in the United States illegally.
The same report from DHS said nearly 80 percent of the 12 million immigrants here illegally in January 2015 had been living in the United States for longer than 10 years, an increase from 2007 when it was estimated that less than 50 percent of this population had been in this country longer than 10 years.
"This pattern suggests a declining rate of growth of new illegal immigration and/or an increasing share of new illegal aliens being repatriated or otherwise returning home," the report reads.
Department of Homeland Security: Population Estimates for illegal alien population residing in the United States
Where do drugs cross the border?
Trump has looked to prove there is an ongoing "crisis" on the border by arguing that lax security has lead to drugs pouring over the border, something he has said a wall could stop.
But important context about how illicit drugs enter the country is missing. The vast majority captured at the border come through ports of entry, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, 90 percent of heroin seized along the border, 88 percent of cocaine, 87 percent of methamphetamine, and 80 percent of fentanyl, was confiscated at ports of entry.
In testimony shared with a congressional committee in February of 2017, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection leader supported these statistics.
“The Southwest land border POEs are the major points of entry for illegal drugs, where smugglers use a wide variety of tactics and techniques for concealing drugs,” said Paul Beeson, director of a Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Force.
Beeson said criminal organizations are known to use personal vehicles and "legitimate commercial modes of travel and transportation to smuggle drugs and other illicit goods" through ports of entry."
Did construction of a border fence cut down on crime in El Paso?
The short answer here is no.
People in support of a wall often make this argument, pointing to the barrier that runs between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico as evidence that a wall would work to cut down on crime on the border.
Most recently, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made this argument in front of Trump. He said El Paso "used to have one of the highest crime rates in America" until a fence was constructed under former President George W. Bush.
Paxton added that "the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country."
But a fact-check of his statement showed that this isn't the case.
Bush approved construction of a fence in 2006, but construction did not start in the El Paso sector until 2008. It was finished by mid-2009.
In the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime in El Paso reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 crimes were recorded, according to Uniform Crime Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported.
From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.
How many crimes are committed by illegal immigrants in Texas?
In January, Trump posted two messages to Twitter about crimes committed in Texas by immigrants who entered the country illegally.
On January 12, he wrote: "In the Great State of Texas, between 2011 & 2018, there were a total of 292,000 crimes by illegal aliens, 539 murders, 32,000 assaults, 3,426 sexual assaults and 3000 weapons charges."
A fact-check of this claim by the Washington Post showed that Trump "is using a strange mix of statistics, focusing on charges instead of convictions, and at one point combining both totals."
"Not all charges result in convictions, so Trump’s fast-and-loose use of numbers here is highly misleading," the fact-check found.
Between June 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2018, there were 186,000 immigrants in the country illegally who were charged with more than 292,000 criminal offenses in Texas, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
But those arrests have resulted in just 120,000 convictions, including: 238 homicide convictions, 12,559 assault convictions, 1,689 sexual assault convictions and 1,280 weapon convictions.
Texas DPS: Texas Criminal Illegal Alien Data
One day later, Trump tweeted: "Thousands of illegal aliens who have committed sexual crimes against children are right now in Texas prisons. Most came through our Southern Border. We can end this easily — We need a Steel Barrier or Wall. Walls Work!"
He attributed the Texas Department of Public Safety with the information in this tweet.
The Washington Post also fact-checked this claim and pointed to reporting by the Houston Chronicle that showed 1,920 people in Texas prisons have both a detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are convicted of a sexual assault against a child.
There are 539 people with a detainer request who have been convicted of indecency with a child.
But there isn't data to show whether the 2,459 people in these categories actually entered the country illegally or whether they entered the country through the southern border.
USA Today Reporter Alan Gomez contributed to this report.
Madlin Mekelburg is a reporter with the USA Today Network Austin Bureau; she may be reached at 512-479-6606; firstname.lastname@example.org; @madlinbmek on Twitter.