At the latest Republican debate, the presidential candidates didn’t have many positive things to say about immigrants or refugees. This could be because they believe a lot of very inaccurate things about them. Here are the top five most egregious things that the GOP presidential hopefuls had to say in the last debate.
#1 – Sen. Rand Paul: “Every terrorist attack we’ve had since 9/11 has been legal immigration.”
This is wildly inaccurate. In fact, according to the New America Foundation’s count, U.S.-born citizens with various ideologies categorized as “right-wing” have carried out twice as many terrorist attacks and killed more people since 9/11 than jihadists have. But even focusing on jihadists who have killed people in the United States over the last 14 years, less than half have been immigrants of any kind. Besides one of the San Bernardino shooters who was a native-born citizen, both the Fort Hood shooter and the Washington State killer were U.S.-born citizens. Sen. Paul’s claim is baseless.
#2 – Sen. Ted Cruz: “One of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight Bill was that it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks whatsoever.”
Two claims are made here: 1) that the 2013 immigration bill (S. 744) gave President Obama “blanket authority to admit refugees” and did so 2) “without mandating background checks.” First, under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president already establishes the refugee limit in consultation with congressional committees. S. 744 didn’t affect this authority.
The Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz made a similar claim last month, saying that provisions granting legal status to “stateless people” would “open the floodgates to Islamic refugees.” But stateless people aren’t refugees. They are people who no nation claims as citizens through, as the bill specifies, no fault or choice of their own. Moreover, the bill included them in the current limit on immigration, meaning that it may make them eligible for a visa, but would not “open the floodgates.” The bill also specified that they must be in the U.S. to apply, so very few would even be eligible. The largest number of stateless people became stateless after the Soviet Union dissolved.
Finally, S. 744 specifically included requirements for background checks of specifically refugees for the first time in statute. Section 3409 states that: “No alien shall be admitted as a refugee until the identity of the applicant… has been checked against all appropriate records or databases… to determine any national security, law enforcement, or other grounds on which the alien may be inadmissible.” Sen. Cruz’s claim is just false.
# 3 – Sen. Rand Paul: “The one thing that might have stopped San Bernardino, might have stopped 9/11, would have been stricter controls on those who came here. And Marco [Rubio]… steadfastly opposed any new border security requirements for refugees or students” in his 2013 immigration bill.
Rand Paul implies that new security for refugees and students may have prevented 9/11 and San Bernardino. But since the San Bernardino attack was carried out by an American citizen and his fiancé, and only one of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers was on a student visa, while none were refugees, it is clear that more security of any kind for refugees and students would not have prevented the attacks.
Sen. Paul did introduce an amendment to the Rubio bill that required that refugees receive a background check but only after they arrived, and since the underlying bill already required this check before they arrived, it was unnecessary. Since no refugee has ever carried out a terrorist attack in the United States, it would have not prevented any terrorist attacks.
#4 – Sen. Ted Cruz: “Do you know how many aliens Bill Clinton deported? 12 million. Do you know how many illegal aliens, George W. Bush deported? 10 million.”
There are two ways to define “deportation.” One is the legal definition, which is the “formal removal of an alien from the United States” that is “ordered by an immigration judge” or the lay definition of the removal of an individual from inside the United States. Sen. Cruz’s claim fails under both definitions.
President Obama has formally removed more immigrants from the United States than any other president in history—more than 2.3 million as of 2014. The deportationists at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) disputes this definition, however, because it includes some of the individuals apprehended at the border and then referred to an immigration judge for a “formal removal.”
Immigration restrictionists have taken issue with the broader legal definition for including some people caught at the border. They argue that a deportation shouldn’t include people who were prevented entering. In 2011, CIS’s Jessica Vaughan called the legal definition “book-cooking” for counting “those caught at the border and returned quickly.” Even by even this measure, however, President Obama has still deported many more immigrants than President Bush, though neither president deported anywhere near 10 million immigrants.
So where does Cruz come up with his numbers? Strangely they are likely from Ms. Vaughan who by 2013 decided that since she was tossing out the legal definition, she should include all of the people who are caught at the border. Not coincidentally, the Obama administration does much worse by this standard from her perspective. Including people at the border, Bush prevented the entry or deported 10 million immigrants. For Obama, the number is just about 4.5 million. But this is not because of any policies of the president, but because many fewer immigrants have attempted to enter illegally. During his presidency, Mexican immigration actually reversed, with a net loss of about a million unauthorized Mexican immigrants.
The real numbers of legal deportations are 870,000 for Clinton, 2 million for Bush, and 2.3 million for President Obama, who is on pace to pass 3 million. Sen. Cruz is incorrect.
#5 – Ben Carson: Refugee camps are “really quite nice.”
According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), refugees are fleeing to Europe from their refugee camps due to “horrible living conditions” because “people don’t have proper shelter and are living on 45 cents a day.” It lists six reasons for refugees fleeing camps into Europe from countries around Syria: 1) deepening poverty, 2) no opportunity for legal employment or residence, 3) few educational opportunities, 4) a lack of safety, 5) aid shortfalls, and 6) a loss of hope that the civil war will end. Many refugees are actually returning to war zones in Syria because the conditions in Jordan and Lebanon are so bad.
Let’s hope this group gets it right the next time.