WHAT WAS SAID
“Mexico is making over $100 billion a year and they’re not helping us with our border because they have strong laws and we have horrible laws. We have horrible border laws.”
— Mr. Trump, nearing the end of his 15-minute remarks to reporters.
This requires context.
The president’s claim would have been more accurate a decade ago, when unauthorized immigration was a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But in 2008, Mexican lawmakers decriminalized illegal immigration, which is now considered a minor offense.
Under American federal law, a first-time violation of illegally entering the United States can be punished by fines of up to hundreds of dollars or a jail sentence of up to six months.
The two countries have similar laws and protocols for inspection and documentation at their respective ports of entry. But Mexico is much weaker in enforcing its border laws, said Rey Koslowski, a professor at the University at Albany who specializes in international migration.
“To say that somehow or another that Mexico is stronger and better equipped,” Mr. Koslowski said, “is laughable.”
The United States also detains and deports more people than Mexico. That’s partly because of its larger population of undocumented immigrants, but also because of aggressive enforcement — which Mr. Trump has previously lauded.
Mr. Trump also overstated the United States’ trade deficit with Mexico as “over $100 billion a year” (it was $69 billion last year); falsely claimed the United States loses “many, many billions of dollars with Canada” (it has a trade surplus); and said the 3.8 percent unemployment rate was the lowest in 50 years (it was also 3.8 percent in 2000).
Sources: The New York Times, “The Hundred Years’ War,” “The Fall of Carthage,” The Los Angeles Times, Atlas Obscura, The Arizona Daily Star, Rey Koslowski