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Trump Lied About Immigration and the Border. Biden Brought A Poor Defense to the Debate.

Much of what Trump said about migrants was false or misleading information that the moderators and President Biden did little to correct.

Fisayo Okare

Jun 28, 2024


There is a general consensus among political insiders and viewers of the presidential debate Thursday night that the debate was far from ideal.

If you missed it, or couldn’t bear to watch it to the end after a few minutes in, here’s a quick rundown of what former President Donald Trump  and President Joe Biden said about immigrants and immigration during their debate.

Much of what the former president said about the migrants who have arrived to the United States since 2022 was false or misleading information that the moderators and Biden did little to correct. 

Trump spent much of his time trying to paint the current president as weak on border security, allowing criminals and “terrorists” into the country. While some high profile crimes committed by migrants have drawn the focus of the public, in New York, statistics show that an increase in migration has not led to more crime and most people who arrive here are simply seeking more peaceful and healthy lives.

Biden highlighted some of the immigration policies he’s implemented during his term. 

“We worked very hard to get a bipartisan agreement,” Biden said. The Biden administration did so to no avail. He continued, “made sure that we are in a situation where you had no circumstance where they could come across the border with the number of border police there are now. We significantly increased the number of asylum officers.” But, Biden’s policies since 2022 have resembled Trump’s in some key ways.

Most recently, Biden’s executive order on asylum which went into effect earlier this month, follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, including Trump, who have used Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to execute restrictions on the entry of immigrants into the U.S. Most notably, Trump used it to implement a series of orders commonly known as “the Muslim Ban” or “the travel ban.” For much of Biden’s criticisms of Trump’s policies, including Trump’s infamous Migrant Protection Protocols, which forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. immigration hearings, Biden has also worked with Mexico’s government during his tenure to manage migration at the US-Mexico border. 

Also Read: India Travel Ban Leaves Hundreds of Employees Stranded

Neither presidents oversaw any permanent immigration reform during their tenures, but on issues of enforcement they differ immensely.

During the debate, Biden criticized Trump for the family separation policy he implemented during his tenure as president. “Separating babies from their mothers, put them in cages making sure that the families were separated. That’s not the right way to go. What I’ve done since I’ve changed the law…I’ve changed it in a way that now you’re in a situation where there are 40% fewer people coming across the border illegally. It’s better than when he left office,” Biden said.

Trump emboldened the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to sweep the nation, arresting and deporting scores of undocumented immigrants. He also undid the President Obama era private prison ban, which paved the way for private corporations to grow increasingly involved in immigration detention. 

Throughout the debate, Trump returned to immigration on questions that were largely unrelated. Asked what he would say to voters who believe Trump violated the oath he took for office as president when he lost the election in 2020, and led protesters to Capitol Hill to fight against the election results because he disagreed with it, Trump used immigration at the border as a talking point. The connection to the border was unclear.

On questions about social security benefits and how the presidents will assist seniors in the U.S., Trump also attacked Biden using immigration as a talking point. In Biden’s rebuttal, he said the U.S. has the best economy in the world because of immigrants. Responding to a question about childcare in the U.S., Trump, once again, used immigration as a talking point, he also accused Biden of wanting to use immigrants — who cannot vote without U.S. citizenship, which takes decades to acquire — as voters in the U.S.

Asked what they would do about the current opioid crisis in the U.S., Trump says drugs are coming from the border, implying that immigrants are bringing in fentanyl from the border, which is misleading as U.S. citizens top the list of fentanyl smugglers caught at the border, not migrants or asylum seekers, according to Homeland Security officials.

Neither candidate presented a policy based vision or plan of how to govern immigration in the United States. There was little talk of visas, or jobs programs, or the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have created lives here but still do not have legal status. Trump, however, in his relentless efforts to paint migrants as dangerous, made it clear that if elected he would likely pursue a similar crackdown to his first term. 

Thursday’s presidential debate went poorly for both candidates. Democrats are particularly disappointed in Biden’s delivery because he did not deliver his talking points with as much vim and coherence as preferred. 

Fisayo Okare

Fisayo writes Documented’s "Early Arrival" newsletter and "Our City" column. She is an MSc. graduate of Columbia Journalism School, New York, and earned her BSc. degree in Mass Comm. from Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.




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