Trump Makes Misleading Border Wall Claims Before and After Meeting With Democrats

Both before and after a meeting on Tuesday with Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in Congress, President Trump pushed a false narrative about the progress of a new wall along the country’s southwest border.

The wall — and funding for it — is the biggest sticking point between the two parties with a partial government shutdown days away unless Congress passes a spending package by Friday of next week. Mr. Trump has insisted that $5 billion for a border wall must be included in the spending package under consideration.

Here is some additional context about Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts on Tuesday morning and his conversation, hours later, with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer.

Mr. Trump was promoting his administration’s border security, saying that migrants have not been able to get through to the United States.

Thousands of migrants are waiting on the Mexican side of the border, as the United States processes their requests for asylum. Customs and Border Protection officers typically review 40 to 100 asylum requests a day, which significantly slows down the process. Asylum requests have increased nearly 70 percent over the past year.

Part of the increase is the result of families of migrants fleeing violence in Central America, immigration advocates say.

The Trump administration says a majority of the asylum applications will not be approved by the United States.

What Mr. Trump said

Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November.

Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.

What Mr. Trump said

Mr. Trump threatened to have the military build the new wall if Democrats did not give him the funding he had asked for, but it was not immediately clear where the military’s funding for this wall would come from.

What Mr. Trump said

A lot of the wall is built. It’s been very effective. I asked for a couple of notes on that. If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent once the wall was up. El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent, then ultimately 95 percent once the wall was up. In Tucson, Arizona, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent. Yuma, it dropped illegal traffic 95 to 96 percent.

— in a meeting with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer on Tuesday

Spending bills for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years included funding for the Department of Homeland Security to replace old barriers with new barriers. These projects are not the same thing as Mr. Trump’s promised 1,000-mile concrete border wall, and many — including most in the sectors Mr. Trump listed — are not yet completed.

It is therefore impossible for Mr. Trump to claim that the wall has already been highly effective in stemming illegal border crossings.

In San Diego, construction began in June to replace 14 miles of barrier. Carlos Diaz, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, estimated that the project was on schedule for completion by May. In El Paso, the agency began a four-mile replacement project in late September, and it will be completed in late April, according to Mr. Diaz. And within the Yuma and Tucson sectors, construction for a 32-mile replacement project will begin in April.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, visited Calexico, Calif., in late October to tour what she called the completion of the “first section” of Mr. Trump’s border wall — a 2.2-mile renovation project in the El Centro sector that began in February.

In Texas, another project in the El Paso sector to replace 20 miles of vehicle barriers with pedestrian barriers was also completed in October.

These projects did not lead to significant declines in border crossings, according to the data. Monthly border apprehensions in both El Centro and El Paso increased from November 2017 to November 2018, the first month after replacement projects were completed.

The numbers that Mr. Trump cited appear to refer — misleadingly — to an overall decline in border apprehensions since the barriers were first erected in the 1990s.

For example, border apprehensions decreased by 91 percent in the San Diego sector from the 1994 fiscal year, right after the original fencing was completed, to the 2018 fiscal year. But, according to the Congressional Research Service, “the primary fence, by itself, did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border in San Diego.”

Instead, a combination of additional staffing and new technology is what proved effective — in addition to the fencing. Over all, border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades because of a variety of factors that include, but are certainly not limited to, fences or barriers at the border.

To suggest claims to fact-check, email [email protected].