Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Former President Donald J. Trump has drawn widespread censure after reprising a line that casts undocumented immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country.” The remark underscored Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration, which has been central to his platform since he made his first bid for president in 2015. If elected again, he has vowed to carry out mass deportations and enact other strict policies. He and his Republican rivals have pointed to the surge of migrants at the southern border to make their political case. Some Democrats, too, have been critical of the Biden administration’s approach toward immigration. But even with legitimate lines of attack, Mr. Trump has at times turned to baseless and misleading claims during rallies in recent months.

Here’s a fact check.

WHAT WAS SAID
“I read an article recently in a paper … about a man who runs a mental institution in South America, and by the way they’re coming from all over the world. They’re coming from Africa, from Asia, all over, but this happened to be in South America. And he was sitting, the picture was — sitting, reading a newspaper, sort of leisurely, and they were asking him, what are you doing? He goes, I was very busy all my life. I was very proud. I worked 24 hours a day. I was so busy all the time. But now I’m in this mental institution — where he’s been for years — and I’m in the mental institution and I worked very hard on my patients but now we don’t have any patients. They’ve all been brought to the United States.”— during a rally in Nevada this month

This lacks evidence. Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that immigrants crossing the border are coming from “mental institutions” and jails. This particular story would seem to offer specific facts behind that assertion, but there is no evidence that such a report exists. The New York Times could not find any such news account from the start of Mr. Biden’s tenure in January 2021 to March, when Mr. Trump told the same story at a Texas rally. The Trump campaign did not respond when repeatedly asked about the source of this claim. But pressed this year by CNN for factual support for the tale, the campaign provided links that did not corroborate it. Likewise, there is no support for Mr. Trump’s broader claim that countries are “dumping” their prisoners and psychiatric patients in the United States. “We are unaware of any effort by any country or other jurisdiction to empty its mental-health institutions or its jails and prisons to send people with mental-health issues or criminals to the U.S.,” Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokeswoman for the nonpartisan research organization Migration Policy Institute, said in an email. The claim evokes elements of a mass exodus that occurred more than 40 years ago in Cuba, Ms. Mittelstadt noted: the Mariel boatlift of 1980. Some 125,000 people fled to the United States, including inmates from jails and patients from mental health institutions freed by the Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “But there has been no present-day effort by any country, to our knowledge, or any credible reporting by media or others that anything of the like is taking place,” Ms. Mittelstadt said.
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