WASHINGTON (AP) – In the final days before pivotal midterm elections, President Donald Trump is painting a distorted picture of immigration while exaggerating his record of achieving economic gains for non-whites and improving health care for veterans.
He insists that Republicans will be able to attract the non-white vote in Tuesday’s elections because he’s achieved “the best median income numbers for all of these groups.” In fact, incomes for African-Americans and Asian-Americans reached their highest levels prior to his administration.
On immigration, Trump inflates the number of foreigners living in the U.S. illegally and misrepresents Democratic legislation in the Senate as promoting “open borders.”
Meanwhile, on health care, Trump falsely suggests that Democrats would seek to destroy Medicare if they take control of Congress and overstates improvements he made to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A look at his campaign rhetoric and the reality:
MEDICARE TRUMP: “The Democrat plan would obliterate Medicare.” – Florida rally Saturday.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect that Democrats would seek to “obliterate Medicare.” Trump appears to be referring to Democratic proposals to provide “Medicare for All,” but the options that allow younger people to buy into a Medicare-like plan don’t involve overhauling the current program.
The plan by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, would be a fundamental change, expanding Medicare to cover almost everyone in the country. But current Medicare recipients would get improved benefits. Sanders would eliminate Medicare deductibles, limit copays, and provide coverage for dental and vision care, as well as hearing aids.
A House single-payer bill calls for covering long-term care.
The issue is whether the U.S. can afford to convert to a new government-run health care system, not that older Americans would be left uncovered. The Democratic proposals call for new taxes to help pay for expanded Medicare coverage.
MEDIAN INCOME TRUMP, on attracting the nonwhite vote from Democrats: “We have the best unemployment numbers, the best median income numbers for all of these groups.
We have the best numbers we’ve ever had. …They should be worried about the African-Americans, because they’re going to lose them.” Fox interview on Oct. 29 THE FACTS: He did not achieve the best median income numbers for all the nonwhite groups. Both African-Americans Asian-Americans and had higher income prior to the Trump administration.
The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau. That’s below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year in office.
Many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, in Obama’s first term, as the primary explanation for recent hiring and income gains. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening even as unemployment rates have come down.
As to Asian-Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.
TRUMP, on tweeting a video blaming Democrats allowing a man to enter the U.S.
who killed two police officers: “All I’m doing is just telling the truth.” _ speaking to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: The video he spread around does not tell the truth. It says Democrats let Luis Bracamontes into the country and “let him stay.”
Bracamontes entered the U.S. illegally, in 1996, during the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, but he was also deported by that administration the next year after being caught buying crack cocaine and serving his sentence. He returned repeatedly. By the time he was sentenced to death in California for the 2014 killings of the police officers, he had been deported four times, according to Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
No evidence of leniency by Democrats has emerged in the episode. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have deported hundreds of thousands of people a year and no administration, Trump’s included, has caught everyone trying to enter illegally.
TRUMP: “President Obama separated the children from parents and nobody complained. When we continued the exact same law, the country went crazy.” _ immigration speech Thursday.
THE FACTS: Actually, Obama did not do the same thing as a matter of policy.
While it’s true the underlying laws were the same, the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted. That policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children.
Trump’s zero tolerance policy remains in effect, but he signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.
Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, recently told NPR there may have been unusual or emergency circumstances when children were taken from parents, but there was no such policy.
BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP to me that you needed a constitutional TRUMP: “It was always told amendment. Guess what? You don’t. …
Well, you can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” – interview published Tuesday with “Axios on HBO.”
THE FACTS: Scholars widely pan the idea that Trump could unilaterally change the rules on who is a citizen. It’s highly questionable whether an act of Congress could do it, either, though it is conceivable that legislators could change the rules regarding children born in the U.S. of parents who are in the country illegally.
Peter Schuck is perhaps the most prominent advocate of the idea that birthright citizenship is not conveyed by the Constitution to children of parents who are living illegally in the U.S. Even he says “Trump clearly cannot act by” executive order.
“I feel confident that no competent lawyer would advise him otherwise,” he said by email Tuesday. “This is just pre-election politics and misrepresentation and should be sharply criticized as such.”
Schuck, of Yale, and colleague Rogers Smith of the University of Pennsylvania have argued since the mid1980s that Congress can set the rules for providing citizenship to U.S.-born children of parents who came illegally.
But most scholars on the left and right share the view that it would take a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are in the country illegally.
TRUMP: “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.” _ interview with “Axios on HBO.”
THE FACTS: That’s wrong. The U.S. is among about 30 countries where birthright citizenship – the principle of jus soli or “right of the soil” _ is applied, according to the World Atlas and other sources. Most are in the Americas. Canada and Mexico are among them. Most other countries confer citizenship based on that of at least one parent – jus sanguinis, or “right of blood” _ or have a modified form of birthright citizenship that may restrict automatic citizenship to children of parents who are on their territory legally.
More broadly, Trump’s view that U.S.-born children of foreigners live a lifetime of taking “all those benefits” ignores the taxes they pay, the work they do and their other contributions to society.