FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:16:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 FactChecking Trump’s Press Conference http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/factchecking-trumps-press-conference/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/factchecking-trumps-press-conference/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 22:26:14 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98574 Donald Trump’s recent press conference garnered a lot of media attention for his put downs of two high-profile journalists, but he didn’t treat the facts much better:

  • Trump claimed “59 percent of our bridges are in trouble.” That’s way off. The Federal Highway Administration says 24 percent of the nation’s bridges were “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” in 2014.
  • Trump said a recent poll in Florida showed him at 28 percent and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, “much lower.” Bush wasn’t that much lower. The most recent poll, released Aug. 20 by Quinnipiac University, showed Trump at 21 percent and Bush at 17 percent in Florida.
  • Trump said under Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker the state is “borrowing to a point that nobody thought possible.” Actually, the rate of borrowing has slowed under Walker. It was 5.8 percent over his first four years in office compared with 31 percent over the previous four-year period.
  • Trump said the U.S. debt is $19 trillion, adding “it’s actually much more than that.” Actually, it’s a little less — $18.2 trillion — and that includes money the federal government owes itself. The U.S. debt held by the public is $13.1 trillion.

Trump’s Aug. 25 press conference in Iowa was marked by a confrontation with Emmy Award winning TV host Jorge Ramos of Univision that made news and generated punch lines. Ramos was kicked out of the press conference after he asked a question without being called on and refused to “sit down,” as instructed by Trump.

Trump also had some cross words for Fox News TV anchor Megyn Kelly that made headlines, continuing a feud with the TV news star that began at the first Republican debate.

But what about the facts? Our review found Trump swung wildly — and missed — on more than one occasion.

Bridges in ‘Serious Trouble’

Trump, Aug. 25: Our bridges, 59 percent of our bridges are in trouble. Think — whoever heard of that? I mean, in trouble. Serious trouble.

Whoever heard of that? Not the Federal Highway Administration. The agency annually produces a report on the state of the nation’s bridges. The FHWA’s most recent report found 61,365 bridges were “structurally deficient” and 84,525 were “functionally obsolete” in 2014. That’s a total of 145,890 “deficient bridges,” or 24 percent, of the 610,749 bridges in the U.S.

Functionally obsolete, by the way, doesn’t mean the bridge is unsafe. “A Functionally Obsolete bridge may be perfectly safe and structurally sound, but may be the source of traffic jams or may not have a high enough clearance to allow an oversized vehicle,” according to National Bridges, a website that tracks the conditions of U.S. bridges.

We don’t mean to minimize the number of bridges in need of replacement, repair or other attention, but the number is simply not as high as Trump says. Where did he get the figure 59 percent? We don’t know. His campaign did not respond to our questions. If it does, we will update this item.

Trump vs. Bush

At one point in the press conference, Trump is asked about polls in Wisconsin that show he is trailing the state’s governor, Scott Walker. Trump deflected the question and talked instead about Florida, which has two candidates in the Republican field: former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Trump, Aug. 25: I haven’t been thinking about Wisconsin right now and Governor Walker certainly has been. I don’t know what the poll is. I know this, in Florida, they just came out with a poll and I’m at 28 and Bush is much lower and Senator Rubio who is a sitting senator is much, much lower.

The latest poll does show that Trump has pulled ahead of both Floridians in their home state. A Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 20 put Trump at 21 percent and Bush at 17 percent. Rubio was at 11 percent. But Trump’s four-point lead is within the margin of error, so to say that Bush is “much lower” is wrong.

Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling data, says Trump’s polling average in Florida, as of Aug. 27, was 24 percent. Bush’s average was 21.5 percent, and Rubio’s was 9 percent.

Trump vs. Walker

Trump also took a swipe at Walker’s fiscal management of Wisconsin. He repeated the false claim that Wisconsin has a $2.2 billion budget deficit. As we wrote once before, state fiscal officials projected a $2.2 billion budget shortfall based on state agency budget requests. But those requests were trimmed back, and Walker signed a balanced budget into law.

After claiming the state has a budget deficit, Trump added this: “They are borrowing to a point that nobody thought possible.” Actually, the state’s total outstanding debt has grown at a far lower rate under Walker than under previous governors.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau, which supplies budget data and analyses for the Legislature, gave us a chart labeled “Outstanding Principal on State Bonding Programs” for 1996 through 2014. The debt figures are all as of the month of December.

The historical data show that total outstanding state debt has increased slightly from $13.2 billion in December 2010, a month before Walker took office, to $14 billion in December 2014, which is the most recent data available. That’s a 5.8 percent increase, or a little less than 1.5 percent per year.

By comparison, in the previous four-year period, from December 2006 to December 2010, the state’s outstanding principal increased 31 percent, from $10.1 billion in December 2006 to $13.2 billion in December 2010. The rate of increase was even higher the prior four-year period, from December 2002 to December 2006, when the state’s total debt rose from $6.6 billion to $10.1 billion.

(Wonky note: The historical data chart transposed two numbers for December 2014. The bureau tells us that the accurate number can be found in the January 2015 report on State Level Debt Issuance, which we used for the calculations above.)

U.S. Debt

Trump also criticized the size of the U.S. debt, which is indeed large. “We owe now $19 trillion. It’s actually much more than that but it’s $19 trillion,” he said.

Actually, the total U.S. debt is a little less than $19 trillion — $18.2 trillion — not “much more.” And that includes money the federal government owes itself, such as special Treasury securities held by the Social Security Trust Fund.

The U.S. debt held by the public is $13.1 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury.

— Eugene Kiely

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Rubio’s Shaky ACA Hypothetical http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/rubios-shaky-aca-hypothetical/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/rubios-shaky-aca-hypothetical/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:24:01 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98536 Sen. Marco Rubio described a hypothetical Detroit business owner with 10 employees as facing higher costs under the Affordable Care Act, saying the man was considering moving one employee to part time to “save … a significant amount under Obamacare.” But a business of that size isn’t subject to the law’s requirements to offer insurance to full-time workers or pay a penalty. And the fictional employee in question would likely qualify for Medicaid.

Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, laid out his hypothetical example in an Aug. 20 speech to the Detroit Economic Club. He described two fictional Detroit workers — David, the owner of a franchise of a national automotive repair company, and Danielle, a receptionist and one of David’s 10 employees (starting around the 8-minute mark).

Rubio, Aug. 20: Let’s call our business owner David, from Detroit. And David owns and operates a franchise of a national automotive repair company. And he has 10 employees. … But lately his costs have been soaring and when he looks at his books, it’s clear to him why. …

It’s getting harder for David to meet payroll, for a number of reasons. One is the higher cost of health insurance under Obamacare.

Rubio went on to talk about his second hypothetical worker, Danielle, a single mother of two who is David’s receptionist. Rubio says of David: “He’s thought about shifting her to a part-time position, which would save him a significant amount under Obamacare.”

We have fact-checked several personal anecdotes about the Affordable Care Act, but with a hypothetical example, there are many details we simply can’t fill in. We reached out to the Rubio campaign to ask for clarification on David’s situation as it would relate to the Affordable Care Act, but we have not received a response. We will update this article if we do.

But we can say that an owner of one franchise business with 10 employees isn’t subject to the ACA’s employer requirements to provide insurance to full-time employees or pay a penalty. He isn’t required to face any increase in health insurance costs under the law.

David would have to employ 50 or more full-time equivalents to be considered a “large” employer and subject to the law’s insurance requirements. Such large businesses must offer affordable coverage (based on a percentage of family income) to full-time employees or pay a penalty. (For 2015, this applies only to businesses with 100 or more full-time equivalent workers; businesses with 50 or more face the requirements in 2016, when they must offer insurance to at least 95 percent of full-time employees and their dependent children.)

The penalties are based on the number of employees who get tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies for insurance plans offered through the state and federal marketplaces. And for 2016, the first 30 such full-time employees don’t count toward that penalty. A flowchart from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation explains the regulations.

It’s complicated, but these penalties aren’t something a business owner with 10 employees has to worry about.

If the fictional David did own other franchise locations with an aggregate workforce of 50 or more employees, he would be considered a large employer under the ACA. But Rubio didn’t say anything about David owning other franchise locations or businesses, or having more employees.

Franchise owners must count all of their employees to determine whether they are large or small employers under the ACA. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report explains that this follows IRS rules on “controlled groups.”

CRS, 2015: With regard to multiple franchises under a single owner, the ACA follows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) aggregation rules governing “controlled groups” (26 U.S.C. §414). If one individual or entity owns (or has a substantial ownership interest in) several franchises, all those franchises are essentially considered one entity. In this case, for purposes of the 50-FTE-employee rule under the employer penalty, the employees in each of the franchises must be aggregated to determine the number of FTE employees.

“You can’t treat them as separate businesses” if you own multiple franchise locations, Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research & Education Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, told us. “If you only have one location that you’re the owner of … that’s all you count. The other franchise owners would be responsible for their locations.” And then there’s the corporate company, which may own some franchise locations itself.

Perhaps the hypothetical David provided health insurance to his 10 employees anyway, even without being required to do so by the ACA. If so, it’s possible he could face a “higher cost” for health care under the law, as Rubio said. We’ll note that the average growth of employer-sponsored premiums has been slower in the years since the ACA was passed than it was for the early 2000s. But that’s only an average. Perhaps David offered a catastrophic health plan, and the health insurance company he had been using changed its plans to comply with minimum benefit requirements under the ACA. That could have raised his rates more significantly than the average growth rate.

David could, of course, decide to contribute less toward his workers’ premiums. Or it’s possible he could qualify for a small business tax credit to cover some of the cost of his premiums, since he employs fewer than 25 workers. The average salary would also have to be $50,000 a year or less to qualify, and we don’t know if that’s the case. David could only claim the credit for two consecutive years.

There are also some compliance requirements for small employers that take time — and therefore money — to meet. If David offered insurance to his employees, he would have to report the value of the insurance on his employees’ W-2s, according to the IRS. Also, small businesses are no longer allowed to reimburse employees for health insurance they purchase on their own elsewhere, without potentially facing excise tax penalties. The IRS had exempted small businesses (under 50 workers) from any possible penalties through July 1. David may also spend many working hours researching what exactly he is and is not required to do under the health care law.

But, he would not have to cut Danielle’s hours to part time in order to “save … a significant amount under Obamacare,” as Rubio said. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees who do offer insurance are not required to offer it to all full-time employees, at least not under current IRS regulations.

We could not fault David, or small-business owners like him, for not knowing this. We consulted the Kaiser Family Foundation for clarification on whether businesses with under 50 employees had to offer health insurance to all full-time workers, if they offered it at all. Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told us that “the IRS has not yet issued rules on nondiscrimination which would address the ability to offer different things to different workers.”

David also could ask his employees to get their own coverage through the federal marketplace, where individuals earning up to $46,680 would qualify for subsidies to cover part of the costs of their premiums. In fact, his receptionist would qualify for Medicaid.

Rubio said that Danielle had two children and earned $9.50 an hour, working about 40 hours a week. That comes to less than $20,000 a year, well under the $27,724 threshold for a family of three to qualify for Medicaid. She could work several hours of time-and-a-half overtime a week and still qualify for Medicaid coverage for her family. That would save David money, and may even save Danielle money, depending on what she had contributed to her premiums through David’s company.

Perhaps the hypothetical David doesn’t want to do that — or has other circumstances that we’re not aware of. But as described by Rubio, David has other options besides paying more for health care or cutting Danielle’s hours to part time.

— Lori Robertson

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Cruz & Crosses http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/cruz-crosses/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/cruz-crosses/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 18:33:21 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98505 Sen. Ted Cruz set up a false bogeyman when he said the Supreme Court is “one justice away” from ordering that crosses on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery be torn down.

Nobody is even asking the court to do such a thing. And in fact, the group that sought removal of a cross from formerly federal land in the Mojave Desert — losing the 5-4 decision to which Cruz referred — strongly supports crosses and other religious symbols on government-issued headstones at Arlington and other military cemeteries.

The Texas senator, who’s seeking the GOP nomination for president, made his claim at a religious rally in Iowa on Aug. 21. He referred to the Supreme Court’s decision allowing the Mojave Desert cross to stand:

Cruz, Aug. 21: Four justices were willing to say this monument to our veterans must be torn to the ground. Anyone who has visited Arlington Cemetery and seen row after row of tombstone with a cross or Star of David honoring our soldiers who gave the last, the ultimate sacrifice. We’re one justice away from the Supreme Court saying we must tear those down.

Sample Headstone

Sample VA Headstone

But it’s a long way from the Mojave to Arlington, where crosses or other religious symbols are carved into government-issued headstones only at the request of the deceased or their next of kin.

In the Mojave case, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that allowing the cross to stand on federal land was an endorsement of one religion over another, violating the First Amendment’s ban on laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” The ACLU continued to press even after the government donated the site to a private owner, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in return for other land elsewhere. The ACLU argued that the swap was simply an evasion.

But when it comes to Arlington’s crosses, the First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion supports them and any other religious symbol requested by the deceased, the ACLU has argued. In a 2006 lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (which had denied a request for a Wiccan symbol), the ACLU said:

ACLU, 2006: Displaying a Cross, a Star of David or any other emblem of religious belief on a gravestone or marker is a long-held tradition in the United States and serves as a means of professing the faith of the deceased. Forbidding some veterans from displaying an emblem representing their religious beliefs on their headstones or markers greatly burdens the free exercise of religion of veterans and their families.
In that case, the ACLU prevailed when the VA agreed to include the Wiccan circle-and-pentangle symbol among the “emblems of belief” it will carve into headstones if requested.
Bogus claims about nonexistent threats to crosses in military cemeteries have been circulating among the gullible for more than a decade. The myth-busting site Snopes.com reported on a 2003 viral email falsely claiming that the ACLU was suing to have cross-shaped headstones removed from military cemeteries. The claim took on new life after the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, but there was no truth to it then either, as we reported.
Cruz is quite correct to note that the Supreme Court is closely divided on many issues, and the next president may make one or more appointments that could tip the balance in one direction or another. But he goes too far when he suggests that crosses at military cemeteries are under threat.
— Brooks Jackson
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Huckabee’s Spin on Iran http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/huckabees-spin-on-iran/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/huckabees-spin-on-iran/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:56:23 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98410 In arguing against the Iran nuclear deal, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee spins the facts.

Huckabee said “no American aircraft would be able to get through” the S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system that Iran plans to install. U.S. military officials and arms control experts dispute that assertion, including one expert who tells us Huckabee is “exaggerating.”

He also claimed the nuclear deal “lets Iran do their own inspections.” That’s wrong. Under the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency would have daily access to and continuous monitoring at declared nuclear sites for at least 15 years. Huckabee was likely referring to a confidential side deal covering inspections at Parchin, a military site connected to nuclear weapon development. But the issue of inspections at that site is in dispute.

The IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said claims of self-inspections “misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work” at Parchin.

Iran’s Plans for Defense System

The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is complex and parts of it aren’t even public. It’s easy for those who support or oppose the deal to spin the facts to suit their argument.

That’s what Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is doing here when he presents opinions as facts.

A vocal opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, Huckabee discussed the deal and related issues on “Fox News Sunday.” At one point, Huckabee warned that the threat of a U.S. military strike should the Iranians violate the terms of the nuclear deal is meaningless, because Iran plans to purchase an advanced anti-aircraft defense system from Russia. The S-300 surface-to-air missile, as it is known, could be used to protect Iran’s nuclear sites from attack.

Huckabee, Aug. 23: The Iranians are right now, even before the deal is signed, negotiating with the Russians to get S-300 anti-aircraft weaponry, some of the most sophisticated, sophisticated enough that no American aircraft would be able to get through.

The claim that “no American aircraft” could penetrate the S-300s caught our attention. We asked the Huckabee campaign to support it, but didn’t get a response. If we do we will update this item.

The deployment of anti-aircraft missiles in Iran by most accounts would make a U.S. strike against Iran more difficult, but not impossible.

The Russian sale of the defense system to Iran has been in discussions for years. Russia first agreed to the sale in 2007, but suspended it in 2010 because of U.S. objections, as detailed by the New York Times. Despite continued U.S. opposition, Russia lifted the ban in April, leading to the most recent negotiations.

At an April 16 press conference, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military option in Iran would remain “intact” even if Iran purchases the S-300s. “[W]e’ve known about the potential for that system to be sold to Iran for several years, and have accounted for it in all of our planning,” Dempsey said.

Steven Pifer, a retired foreign service officer who now heads the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, told us “Huckabee overstated the threat posed by the S-300 surface-to-air missile system.”

“The U.S. military has for decades invested significant resources to deploy the stealthy B-2 bomber, F-22 fighter and (now coming on line) F-35 fighter-bomber, as well as stand-off attack weapons and electronic countermeasures, to enable U.S. aircraft to conduct operations in areas defended by very sophisticated air defenses,” Pifer said in an email to us. “We will not know for sure unless the U.S. military has to fly against Iranian S-300s. If that had to happen, the smart money would be on the U.S. Air Force and Navy.”

Likewise, two research analysts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is headed by former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, co-wrote an op-ed in the congressional newspaper The Hill that said the U.S. and Israel both could penetrate the defense system.

“The S-300’s formidable capabilities do not, however, make Iran’s air-defenses immune to all threats,” they wrote. “Both Israel and the U.S. have experience training against Western-acquired S-300s. And although both air forces have yet to face an S-300 battery in combat, there is little doubt they would be able to counter the system.”

Iran’s Self-Inspections?

Huckabee then went on tell guest host Shannon Bream that “this deal … lets Iran do their own inspections.”

Huckabee, Aug. 23: So this is just — I mean — I mean it’s balloon juice for the president to get out there and pretend that this deal is a good one, in part, Shannon, because this lets Iran do their own inspections, do their self-reporting. It’s like letting a tenth grader grade his own algebra exams or letting Hillary Clinton take care of her own server. Both are nonsense and this deal is nonsense.

First, let’s clear up what Huckabee is talking about.

Huckabee’s does not explain the reference to self-inspections, making it seem like he is talking about all inspections. That’s wrong and could leave some viewers with a false impression of the nuclear deal.

Under the JCPOA, the IAEA would have daily access to declared nuclear sites for 15 years and continuous electronic monitoring of those sites for at least 15 years, as explained in a 67-page guidebook published by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

Huckabee was most likely referring to a controversial side deal involving the Parchin military site, which has been the site of past high-explosive testing that the IAEA suspects is connected to nuclear weapon development. That separate agreement has not been made public, but the Associated Press on Aug. 19 wrote that a draft copy of the agreement indicated that “Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate.”

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano responded to the AP article by issuing a statement that said, “I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.”

Amano didn’t explain the inspection process because the agreement is confidential. In his statement, he only said “the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices.”

The confidential agreement on Parchin and the claim that it allows Iran to self inspect has become a major issue in recent days.

The American Security Initiative, a bipartisan group of four former senators, has begun running TV ads targeting Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania that feature the AP story and a young man who says Iran sponsored the terrorist group that killed his father. In the ad, the man says, “This news about them self-inspecting. It doesn’t make sense. I wonder why we’re giving up so much control. We cannot allow Iran to self inspect.”

As with many aspects of the nuclear deal, the facts are in dispute.

Thomas Shea, a former IAEA inspector who once headed the agency’s Trilateral Initiative Office in the Department of Safeguards, co-wrote an op-ed for The Hill that carried the headline, “No, Iran is not allowed to inspect itself.” He wrote that IAEA inspectors will likely oversee Iranian collection of samples at Parchin.

Shea and Mark Hibbs, Aug. 21: The IAEA and Iran have developed a protocol to allow this to happen in a way that ensures, to the satisfaction of both parties, the integrity of the process. Without knowing the precise details of the IAEA’s understanding with Iran, IAEA inspectors at Parchin will likely oversee the taking of multiple samples using environmental sampling kits that the IAEA has prepared. Multiple samples would be prepared at each location identified by the IAEA inspectors. Each side would obtain samples taken with the kits. Critically, the IAEA would have samples using kits prepared in advance by its own laboratory.

Tariq Rauf, who once headed IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office, explained how that process could work on the website Atomic Reporters:

Rauf, Aug. 20: Under regular IAEA safeguards inspections, Agency inspectors carry out the swiping and collection of samples, as at Bushehr, Esfahan, Natanz, Fordow and elsewhere in Iran. Parchin being a military industrial facility is not subject to regular IAEA safeguards as it is not a “nuclear facility” as defined for purposes of IAEA safeguards. The IAEA, however, can request and obtain access to a facility such as Parchin under “managed access” provisions of Iran’s Additional Protocol (AP) to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It would be unusual but by no means technically compromising to have Iranian technicians collect swipe samples at sites and locations at Parchin in the physical presence and direct line of sight of IAEA inspectors, including filming, and using swipe kits and collection bags provided by the IAEA.

However, David Albright, an IAEA weapons inspector in Iraq during the 1990s and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, writes in the Washington Post that IAEA inspectors will not be present during the sample collection. He writes, “The IAEA will not be able to visit Parchin until after the samples are taken, and it remains doubtful that the inspectors will be able to take additional samples.”

In an email to us, Albright said he got his information from unnamed “congressional sources, based on briefings by senior U.S. officials.” He questioned whether Rauf knows the details of the agreement.

“Rauf’s statement that you quote is largely what would be expected if normal IAEA procedures were followed and Rauf does not imply any knowledge of the actual Parchin agreement in this statement,” Albright said. “The Parchin agreement is not normal, so it is to be expected that the procedures would vary from the standard ones.”

Rauf acknowledged that he has not seen the confidential agreement, “but neither has Mr. Albright.” He told us in an email that he based his op-ed “on the actual practices of the IAEA” and the reassurance by Amano that the arrangements with Iran are “consistent with established IAEA safeguards practices.”

At an Aug. 24 press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about the AP report and referred reporters back to Amano’s statement.

“The fact is that the arrangements between Iran and the IAEA are sound and consistent with the IAEA’s long-established practice; that the IAEA in developing this inspection plan didn’t compromise its safeguards or standards in any way,” Earnest said.

There is no resolution to this dispute at this point and perhaps there won’t be unless the agreement is made public or if the IAEA fully explains the verification process that it will use at Parchin.

But this much is clear: Huckabee’s statement that the nuclear deal “lets Iran do their own inspections” is at the very least in dispute. And, because he didn’t make clear what part of the nuclear deal he was talking about, viewers could have easily been left with the false impression that he was talking about all inspections. That would be wrong.

— Eugene Kiely

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Jeb Bush Attacks Planned Parenthood http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/jeb-bush-attacks-planned-parenthood/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/jeb-bush-attacks-planned-parenthood/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 23:10:47 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98413 Jeb Bush claims Planned Parenthood should not receive federal funding because “they’re not actually doing women’s health issues.” That’s simply false.

In 2013, Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics provided nearly 10.6 million services to 2.7 million women and men, including contraception, tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, cancer screenings, abortions, and several other women’s health services, according to the organization’s most recent annual report.

Yet Bush said Planned Parenthood is “involved in something way different than” women’s health when answering a question at a veterans town hall event in Colorado on Aug. 25.

Bush, Aug. 25: As it relates to women’s health issues in general, when I was governor, we expanded those programs through community based organizations and that’s something I think the federal government needs to continue to do. I for one don’t think that they should, that Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny, though. And that’s the difference. Because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues. They’re involved in something way different than that.

Anti-abortion politicians have pushed to defund Planned Parenthood after undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about aborted fetal tissue being collected and used for research. According to Planned Parenthood figures, abortions represent 3 percent of the organization’s total services, and roughly 12 percent of its clients received an abortion.

The services its clinics provided to women and men in 2013 included:

  • 4.5 million tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
  • 3.6 million contraception related services
  • 935,573 cancer screenings including breast exams and Pap tests
  • 1.1 million pregnancy tests and prenatal services

A more detailed breakdown is available in the annual report, which also included this graphic:


Planned Parenthood graphic from its 2013-2014 annual report.


We contacted a spokeswoman for Bush’s campaign to find out why those services didn’t count as “women’s health issues,” but we didn’t receive a response.

Bush, a Republican presidential candidate, did respond to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on Twitter, writing on Aug. 25: “PP treatment of unborn has been horrifying. Let’s support quality women’s health programs instead @HillaryClinton.” That was after Clinton, also on Twitter that day, wrote that “Jeb is just wrong” for saying that Planned Parenthood is “not doing women’s health issues.”

This isn’t the first time Bush has called for the elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

In early August, Bush was criticized for saying, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women’s health programs.” He later said that he “misspoke” on funding for women’s health broadly, and only meant to refer to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which received $528.4 million in “government health services grants & reimbursements” in 2013. That figure includes federal and state government money, however. Federal money cannot be used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

— D’Angelo Gore

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Trump on Birthright Citizenship http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/trump-on-birthright-citizenship/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/trump-on-birthright-citizenship/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 22:45:07 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98412 Donald Trump was off base with his claim that Mexico does not have a birthright citizenship policy like the U.S. Although the two countries use different terminology, the two policies are actually very similar.

Trump also overstated the rarity of such policies around the world, claiming that “we’re the only place, just about, that’s stupid enough to do it.” While the majority of countries do not have such a policy, 30 of them do, including Canada and a number of other countries in Central and South America.

During a rally in Mobile, Alabama, on Aug. 21, Trump reiterated his support for doing away with the birthright citizenship provision in the 14th Amendment — which grants citizenship to babies born in the U.S. even if their parent or parents are in the country illegally.

Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, said that as a result of the policy more than 300,000 babies a year, or about 7.5 percent of all children born in the U.S., are born to parents in the U.S. illegally. A 2010 report from the Pew Research Center estimated that “340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants,” which was about 8 percent of births that year. Our fact-checking colleagues at the Washington Post concluded that Trump’s updated figure is accurate, or nearly so.

Trump then went on to say (at about the 35-minute mark): “And you know, in the case of other countries, including Mexico, they don’t do that. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t walk over the border for one day and all of a sudden we have another American citizen. It doesn’t work that way. Mexico doesn’t do it. Other places don’t do it. Very few places do it. We’re the only place, just about, that’s stupid enough to do it.”

Mexican Policy

Let’s start with Trump’s remarks regarding U.S. policy on birthright citizenship and the claim that it “doesn’t work that way” in Mexico. In fact, it mostly does. According to Article 30 of the Mexican Constitution, “The Mexican nationality” is acquired by birth if someone is born within Mexican territory, “whatever their parents’ nationality might be.”

Technically, according to the Mexican Constitution, people don’t become “citizens” of Mexico until they turn 18, at which point they can vote, be elected to public office and join the military. That’s true even of babies born in Mexico to Mexican parents.

But that’s more of a difference in language between the two countries than actual practice, Emilio Kourí, director of the Katz Center for Mexican Studies at the University of Chicago, told us in a phone interview.

Having Mexican “nationality” conferred upon someone entitles them to many of the same types of civil and social rights that are conferred upon a child in the U.S. who is deemed a “citizen,” Kourí said.

In Mexico, “citizenship” is a legal term that implies political rights, such as being able to vote and hold office, Kourí said, and those rights are conferred automatically upon one’s 18th birthday. That’s similar in practice to the policy in the U.S., where “citizens” still can’t vote until they turn 18. (One difference between the two countries’ policies is that in order to be president in Mexico, one needs to have been born to at least one parent who is a Mexican citizen — see Article 82.)

The Mexican Constitution notes that in addition to being 18, to become a citizen one must “have an honest way of life.” That’s to prevent felons from having voting rights, just as is the case in many states in the U.S., Kourí said.

“Mexico currently has a system that is nearly identical to that of the United States,” Kourí said. “What we call birthright citizenship, their constitution calls nationality.”

Though the distinction in language is understood by lawyers, in public discourse, people in Mexico consider themselves to be citizens even without the political rights attached to citizenship, Kourí said. When women’s suffrage came to Mexico in 1953, he said, the constitution’s language was changed so that anyone who turned 18 was then a “citizen,” as opposed to citizenship only being afforded to men. But before then, he said, women certainly considered themselves citizens of Mexico, even though they could not vote.

The Policy in Other Countries

As for Trump’s claim that “very few places” have birthright citizenship policies, it’s true that America’s policy is in the minority in the international community. But the U.S. isn’t alone, by any means.

According to a 2010 analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates for lower immigration, 30 of the world’s 194 countries grant automatic birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants in the country illegally. The U.S. and Canada are the only ones among those 30 countries that have advanced economies as defined by the International Monetary Fund. Outside North America, most of the 30 counties that have birthright citizenship policies are in Central and South America. No country in Europe has such a policy. See Table 1 for the full list of countries that do, and do not, recognize automatic birthright citizenship. CIS was unable to confirm the policy in 19 countries.

Jon Feere, the author of the CIS report, told us via email that if the U.S. were to stop granting automatic citizenship to children of immigrants who are in the country illegally, “it would be following an international trend.”

Feere, Aug. 24: In recent years, the international trend has been to end universal birthright citizenship. Countries that have ended universal birthright citizenship include the United Kingdom, which ended the practice in 1983, Australia (1986), India (1987), Malta (1989), Ireland, which ended the practice through a national referendum in 2004, New Zealand (2006), and the Dominican Republic, which ended the practice in January 2010. The reasons countries have ended automatic birthright citizenship are diverse, but have resulted from concerns not all that different from the concerns of many in the United States. Increased illegal immigration is the main motivating factor in most countries. Birth tourism was one of the reasons Ireland ended automatic birthright citizenship in 2004.

Feere also noted that some of the countries that grant birthright citizenship don’t experience much illegal immigration. For example, he said, Fiji has an estimated illegal immigration population of 2,000 people, which is 0.2 percent of the country’s population. In the U.S., the estimated 11.3 million immigrants living in the country illegally, according to the Pew Research Center, make up about 3.5 percent of the total population.

So it’s true that the U.S. policy of birthright citizenship is at odds with the majority of the world’s countries. But there are still quite a few countries in the Americas that grant birthright citizenship. And that’s a fact that Trump glosses over.

— Robert Farley

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Aug. 21: Immigration, Health Care, Government Shutdown http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/aug-21-immigration-health-care-government-shutdown/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/aug-21-immigration-health-care-government-shutdown/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:22:06 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98585
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Planned Parenthood Goes on Offense http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/planned-parenthood-goes-on-offense/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/planned-parenthood-goes-on-offense/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:05:01 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98308 A Planned Parenthood ad wrongly implies that New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte supports shutting down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood. She doesn’t. The ad also exaggerates the potential impact of a shutdown.

Ayotte did vote in favor of a failed bill to defund Planned Parenthood, as the ad says. But she is on record saying that she does not support allowing a government shutdown to attempt to force that defunding.

Planned Parenthood launched the ad against Ayotte on Aug. 18 as part of a campaign that targets three other Republican senators who also voted for the bill to prohibit federal funding of Planned Parenthood – Sens. Ron Johnson, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey. They have not publicly taken a position on a shutdown.

The ad features several people raising questions about the effects of a shutdown on services such as veterans benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Head Start and small-business loans. While it’s true that a government shutdown would likely affect some people who access or are trying to access these programs — at least based on the last shutdown in 2013 — most of the programs listed would largely continue to operate as they do now.

Social Security and Medicare payments, for example, would continue to be made, and veterans hospitals would remain open.

Planned Parenthood has been under increased scrutiny recently due to undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about the procedures for collecting fetal tissue for research and the fees they charge tissue procurement companies. That has led to a renewed push by some Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood.

The ads all have the same script, but are personalized for the candidate being targeted. Here’s the opening of the one targeting Ayotte in New Hampshire:

Planned Parenthood ad: First Kelly Ayotte voted to defund Planned Parenthood, risking health care for millions of women. Now Republicans want to shut down the government to block funding for Planned Parenthood. What would a shutdown mean for New Hampshire?

The ad then cuts to an elderly man in a wheelchair who asks, “Will anyone be there to process my veterans benefits?” An elderly woman then asks, “What will that do to Social Security and Medicare?” A woman holding a toddler asks, “Will I be able to get my daughter into Head Start?” And finally, a woman asks, “What about small-business loans?”

It’s true that all four senators voted on Aug. 3 in favor of a bill that sought to prohibit federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Johnson, Portman and Toomey were also cosponsors of the bill, which failed to get the 60 votes needed to move forward (the vote was 53-46).

As for whether that vote risked “health care for millions of women,” that is a matter of political debate. Ayotte’s office says any federal funds taken from Planned Parenthood would be “redirected to local community health centers that provide services such as cancer screenings, mammograms and contraceptives.” Planned Parenthood officials say its clinics serve many rural and under-served areas where there are no other health center alternatives. And, they say, many alternative community health centers are not equipped to handle the influx of women now served by Planned Parenthood.

Republicans on a Shutdown

After highlighting the failed vote to defund Planned Parenthood, the ad’s narrator says Republicans are considering a new strategy. “Now Republicans want to shut down the government to block funding for Planned Parenthood,” the ad says. The ad against Ayotte ends with: “Tell Sen. Ayotte: Stand up for Planned Parenthood health care — not a government shutdown.”

It’s true there are some in the Republican Party willing to risk a government shutdown over the issue. On July 29, 18 House Republicans wrote a letter to House leadership saying they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution — an appropriations bill, an omnibus package, a continuing resolution, or otherwise — that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.” There are some in the Senate who have voiced similar sentiments, including presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.

Specifically not in that camp, however, is Ayotte.

From the New York Times on July 3o:

New York Times, July 30: “I’m going to want to make sure that we keep the government funded,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, who would like Congress to cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding, but not by holding hostage appropriations that keep the government’s lights on.

An Aug. 4 Bloomberg article about the possibility of a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood had this to say about Ayotte’s position:

Bloomberg, Aug. 4: New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte called for a “responsible” agreement to fund the government given that 60 votes are required in the Senate, adding: “I think that we should ensure that we do not have a government shutdown.”

Another target of the ads, Portman, said this:

The Hill, Aug. 3: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), another incumbent facing reelection next year, said he’s “for defunding,” and then said “I don’t think anybody is talking about shutting down the government, but we want to defund Planned Parenthood, so we’ll see.”

Johnson was even more noncommittal. When asked if he would shut down the government over the Planned Parenthood funding, Johnson told The Hill: “That would be a hypothetical question. I’m not going to answer it.”

A spokeswoman for Toomey said he “thinks we should fund women’s health programs through organizations that do not hold Planned Parenthood’s outrageous disregard for human life.” However, Toomey has not publicly taken a position on whether he would support a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.

More broadly, the ad implies there is greater consensus among Republicans about a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding than actually exists. In fact, the very article cited in the Planned Parenthood ad — an Aug. 4 article in the Christian Science Monitor headlined, “Will Republicans shut down the government over Planned Parenthood?” — carries a subhead that says while the idea has been floated by some Republicans, it “has few advocates.” According to the article: “Much of the Republican party … has been quick to emphasize that a government shutdown is neither likely nor desirable.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for one, has vowed that the issue would not lead to a government shutdown this fall.

The Effects of a Shutdown

Nonetheless, the ad hints at the possibility of disastrous problems should the government shut down. The potential problems from a shutdown are posed as vague questions, rather than declarative statements. But the consequences of a shutdown are far less dire than the questions posed by the people in the ad imply.

For example, one elderly woman asks, “What will [a shutdown] do to Social Security and Medicare?” Based on the experience of the federal government shutdown in 2013, the answer for her is, “Probably nothing.”

The federal shutdown in 2013 stretched from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16, largely over the issue of whether to defund implementation of parts of the Affordable Care Act. The shutdown resulted in some 800,000 federal employees being furloughed, and caused substantial disruption to many federal services.

But Social Security and Medicare are part of mandatory funding streams, funded outside the regular appropriations bills. And so Social Security payments continued to be made. In fact, during the second week of the shutdown, more than 8,000 furloughed workers were recalled to ensure the prompt payment of benefits. But there were some who were affected. For example, in an analysis of the effects of the 2013 shutdown, the White House Office of Management and Budget noted that the Social Security Administration suspended the issuance of new Social Security cards, and could not verify existing numbers, affecting thousands seeking jobs or loans.

In the ad, a man in a wheelchair asks, “Will anyone be there to process my veterans benefits?” During the 2013 shutdown, veterans hospitals remained open, but Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress that a discontinuance of overtime during the shutdown slowed its review of benefit claims, meaning that “we are no longer making the significant gains we have made in recent months toward eliminating the backlog in claims.”

As for the woman in the ad who worries whether she will be able to get her daughter into Head Start, the OMB noted that the two-week shutdown in 2013 “forced Head Start grantees serving nearly 6,300 children to close their centers for up to nine days (before re-opening with the help of private philanthropists or their state).” That’s a real disruption, but to put it into context, there was a funded enrollment of nearly 904,000 in Head Start that year.

The overwhelming majority of 1,600 Head Start programs continued to operate through the government shutdown, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families told us via email. However, of those 1,600 programs, the grants for 23 of them were due for new funding on Oct. 1, while the government was shut down. Seven of these grantees were not able to operate during the shutdown, while 16 operated through interim funds provided by private donors.

In other words, there were some disruptions to the programs highlighted in the ads, but by and large those programs continued to operate normally.

Planned Parenthood can legitimately warn of the (slim) possibility of a government shutdown by those who oppose funding the group — some Republicans indeed support such action. But not Ayotte. And the ad’s images of seniors questioning what will happen to their Social Security and Medicare imply a far more dire consequence than most seniors would face.

— Robert Farley

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Fiorina’s Fuzzy Vaccine Claims http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/fiorinas-fuzzy-vaccine-claims/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/fiorinas-fuzzy-vaccine-claims/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 12:57:43 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98306 Carly Fiorina recently said some unnamed vaccine-preventable diseases are “not communicable” and “not contagious,” and some immunizations are not “necessary” for school-age children. The fact is that every immunization recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covers a highly communicable disease.

Fiorina, a former businesswoman, is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Though her campaign did not respond to repeated requests to clarify which diseases and vaccines she meant, Fiorina on two occasions suggested the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, should not be mandatory for children. However, the HPV virus is highly communicable through many forms of sexual contact, and the vaccine has been proven to prevent its transmission and thus help prevent cervical cancer as well.

Fiorina spoke at a town hall event in Alden, Iowa, and afterward addressed reporters. According to multiple media outlets, including Time magazine and CNN, she addressed the idea of parental choice with vaccinations:

Fiorina, Aug. 13: When you have highly communicable diseases where you have a vaccine that’s proven, like measles or mumps, then I think a parent can make that choice, but then I think a school district is well within their rights to say, “I’m sorry, your child cannot then attend public school.” ….

I think when we’re talking about some of these more esoteric immunizations, then I think absolutely a parent should have a choice and a school district shouldn’t be able to say, “sorry, your kid can’t come to school” for a disease that’s not communicable, that’s not contagious, and where there really isn’t any proof that they’re necessary at this point.

We sent multiple emails and left a voicemail with Fiorina’s campaign asking for clarification on which vaccines are “esoteric,” which diseases are not communicable or contagious, and for which vaccines we do not have proof of their necessity. We did not get a response, and we will update this post if we do.

SciCHECKinsertRegardless of her answers to those questions, however, her statement regarding contagious or communicable diseases is inaccurate. The CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for children contains 14 vaccines (some versions only recommended for older children and certain high-risk groups), and every one of them includes coverage against diseases considered highly communicable. The only disease covered by recommended vaccines that is not passed from person to person is tetanus, and that is generally covered in a vaccine that also provides immunization against diphtheria and pertussis, two highly contagious infections.

On two occasions, Fiorina has suggested the HPV vaccine should not be mandatory for school-age children. During the town hall in Iowa, she told a story about her daughter being “bullied” into letting her own daughter receive the vaccine for HPV. Fiorina also mentioned this vaccine in an interview with Buzzfeed in January:

Fiorina, Jan. 24: I think there’s a big difference between — just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have — a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So, I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10-year-old.

If her more recent comments are also in reference to HPV, Fiorina again has missed the mark. HPV is common and communicable, through sexual contact. The CDC says that “[y]ou can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus,” and the virus can be spread even when no signs or symptoms are present. According to the CDC, about 14 million Americans become infected with HPV — there are about 40 types of the virus — every year.

Fiorina could have meant that “highly communicable” diseases, such as measles, are transmitted through the air, simply by being in proximity to infected individuals. This is true, but the other vaccine-preventable diseases are also highly communicable, though by different routes in some cases. Some of the infections are transmitted through the air, others through the fecal-oral route (i.e., unwashed hands), and others, including hepatitis B and HPV, are sexually transmitted. HPV cannot be transmitted through the air, like measles.

The CDC currently recommends that all boys and girls aged 11 or 12 years old should receive the HPV vaccine, and “catch-up” vaccines are recommended through the age of 21 for males and 26 for females. The vaccine is not given to a girl at a young age “in case she’s sexually active at 11″ — it is given then because that is before most people become sexually active. In fact, the CDC says that “[p]reteens should receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV.” The fundamental purpose of a vaccine is to administer it before one is at risk for the disease in question.

Though one might debate whether the HPV vaccine should be required, there is ample proof that it is effective. Multiple studies have shown that vaccines, including Gardasil and Cervarix, offer long-lasting protection against strains of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer.

Because the first HPV vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 2006, it may take years to firmly connect declining cervical cancer rates to vaccination. However, studies already have found excellent protection against a cervical cancer precursor called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN. A review paper published in the journal Vaccine in 2012 found that “the excellent trial results strongly support the potential of the vaccines as high value public health interventions.” The CDC says that HPV infections cause about 17,000 cancer cases in U.S. women and 9,000 cases in U.S. men every year, and vaccines could lower those rates significantly.

Regardless of which immunizations Fiorina considers “esoteric,” there are no common vaccines that fit the profile she describes. All of the CDC’s recommended immunizations, including those for HPV in preteen boys and girls, are highly effective at preventing communicable and dangerous diseases.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

– Dave Levitan

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Trump’s Immigration Plan http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/trumps-immigration-plan/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/08/trumps-immigration-plan/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 20:41:39 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=98260 Republican Donald Trump’s immigration plan includes several statements that stray from the facts.

  • He said “birthright citizenship” is the “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” Actually, research indicates the biggest draw is economic opportunity.
  • He claimed taxpayers have paid “hundreds of billions” in health care, education, welfare and more for illegal immigration from Mexico. But the Congressional Budget Office found the net financial impact of illegal immigration on state and local budgets was “most likely modest.”
  • Trump says the “incarcerated alien population” was responsible for “3 million arrests.” The 2011 report he cites says there were 1.7 million arrests, including some that didn’t result in convictions or even prosecutions.
  • He said border crossing cards and NAFTA visas are “major” sources of visa overstays, but we could find no data to support this. The most recent estimate showed border crossing cards made up 4 percent to 12 percent of those who violated the terms of a legal entry. And very few NAFTA visas are issued in comparison with other visas.

Birthright Citizenship

Trump released his plan in mid-August, calling for a wall to be built across the southern U.S. border (paid for by Mexico) and other measures to step up enforcement and limit immigration, both illegal and legal. Among the proposals: He says he wants to “end birthright citizenship,” saying it “remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” That’s contradicted by research that shows jobs and economic opportunity are the biggest draws for those coming to the U.S. illegally.

Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, an independent think tank, told us that research has consistently found that economic factors are the big determinants of illegal immigration. “If you read a few hundred academic articles, I don’t think you’ll find one that identifies the desire to have children in the U.S. … as a significant factor in people’s thinking,” he said.

Birthright citizenship refers to the fact that a child born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen under the Constitution, even if both of the parents are not in the country legally. The parents still aren’t citizens and can’t be sponsored for a green card by their child until that child is 21.

Latino immigrants — both legal and illegal — didn’t cite that as a reason for coming to the U.S. when the Pew Research Center polled them in 2011. Instead, 55 percent said “economic opportunities” brought them to the United States. Twenty-four percent cited “family reasons.” The poll didn’t include more detail on what exactly those “family reasons” were; Rosenblum said some reuniting with family members come to the U.S. illegally because of the long wait times for family visas.

There is ample evidence that the health of the U.S. economy, and therefore the availability of jobs, is what primarily drives immigration. The number of immigrants with illegal status has remained around 11.3 million for the past five years, according to the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends project, a period of slow economic recovery. The center, a self-described “fact tank” that provides research and public opinion polling, notes that this population “dropped sharply during the Great Recession of 2007-09, mainly because of a decrease in immigration from Mexico.”

The Migration Policy Institute has similar estimates on the number of immigrants here illegally, and its figures, too, show an ebb and flow with the economy. “During the 1990s, the unauthorized population rose substantially, doubling from 3.5 million to 7 million. It continued to increase during the 2000s, reaching a peak of 12.2 million in 2007, then fell to 11 million during and after the recession,” the institute said in an August 2015 report.

Longtime historical trends for both legal and illegal immigration also reflect what has happened in the economy. We spoke with Audrey Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, about this last year, and she told us the trend in the percentage of foreign-born living in the U.S. largely mirrors job opportunities. The percentage of the population that was foreign-born was above 10 percent from 1860 to 1930, and then again from 2000 to 2010. The industrial revolution and high economic growth before the recent recession were the reasons, she said. The job sectors are very different, “but the root causes of immigration are very similar,” Singer said.

If the “biggest magnet for illegal immigration” was the ability to get citizenship for a child born here, we would expect to see as many, if not more, women than men among those living in the country illegally. But Pew’s Hispanic Trends project has found that men outnumber women among this population in child-bearing age groups.

There has been an increase in the percentage of those here illegally living with U.S.-born children, going from 30 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2012. However, Pew attributes that to a sizable increase in the share who have lived in the U.S. long-term. In 2000, 35 percent of unauthorized immigrant adults had lived in the country for 10 years or more; in 2012, that share was 62 percent.

“There’s a lot of work showing that’s partly the changing nature of border enforcement,” Rosenblum says of an increase in U.S.-born children over the last few decades. Immigrants used to come for short periods of time and return home — as in seasonal workers — but as it has become more difficult to cross the border, “that has faded in favor of permanent settlement.” There have been more families in the country illegally, too, he says as labor markets have expanded for women.

Emily Ryo, an assistant professor of law and sociology at the University of Southern California, conducts research on illegal immigration and has specifically examined why migrants decide to cross the border illegally. She told us via email that while much of her research focuses on male migrants, she also has interviewed females. “None of those female migrants have ever mentioned the desire for birthright citizenship for their children as the reason for their decision to migrate to the U.S.,” she said. “[I]nstead, lack of employment opportunities and/or violence in their home communities, and family reunification have been the most frequently cited reasons among my research subjects.”

Ryo says that crossing the border is “extremely dangerous,” and more so for women. “In light of this, at least for average single female migrants, I think it would take an extremely forward-looking individual to say: I am going to take those enormous risks for the chance that I will one day meet a man and have a child in the U.S. so that the child will be a U.S. citizen.”

Immigration Costs

Trump’s plan says the cost for the U.S. of illegal immigration from Mexico has been “extraordinary.” Taxpayers “have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc.” But nonpartisan studies have estimated a modest impact of illegal immigration on state and local budgets, and a net positive impact on the federal budget.

There have been few studies on this topic, and few attempts to put a number on the cost of illegal immigration. A 2007 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the net impact on state and local budgets was “most likely modest.” A 1997 report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found most immigrants — both legal and illegal — would have a net positive effect on government budgets over the immigrants’ lifetimes, but some states, such as California, would face a net cost over the long-term.

We wrote about the cost to federal, state and local governments of illegal immigration in 2009, when an error-riddled chain email was circulating that claimed illegal immigration cost $338.3 billion per year. A list of supposed costs in the email didn’t even add up to that amount. More important, the few published estimates that existed were far lower.

CBO’s 2007 report looked at 29 reports on state and local costs published over 15 years and concluded that while it is “difficult to obtain precise estimates of the net impact of the unauthorized population on state and local budgets,” the impact “is most likely modest.” CBO didn’t put a number on such costs nationwide, saying: “No agreement exists as to the size of, or even the best way of measuring, that cost on a national level.”

The report said that “state and local governments bear much of the cost of providing certain public services — especially services related to education, health care, and law enforcement — to individuals residing in their jurisdictions.”

Rosenblum, at the Migration Policy Institute, told us that there’s likely a net benefit at the federal level, since immigrants here illegally would pay more in federal taxes than they would receive in federal benefits. Many pay payroll taxes, including Social Security taxes that such immigrants can’t then collect. The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration estimated that those in the country illegally contributed a net $12 billion to Social Security’s cash flow for 2010.

But there’s likely a net state and local cost, Rosenblum says, because, as CBO explained, immigrants living in the country illegally consume more in services, than they pay in state and local taxes. The 1997 National Research Council study found exactly that.

The study determined that on an annual basis, the net fiscal national cost imposed by all immigrant-headed households on native households was $14.77 billion (based on New Jersey’s budget) to $20.16 billion (based on California’s). See table 6.5. Immigrants from Latin America, however, were the only ones to contribute a negative net annual fiscal impact, which offset the positive net annual impacts of Canadians, Europeans, Asians and other immigrants. Those figures, of course, are based on all of the foreign-born, whether citizens, legal residents or immigrants in the country illegally.

The NRC report cautioned against a “simplistic use” of this annual estimate, noting that the demographics of the immigrant population would change over time, and, among other factors, children who were consuming services then would grow up to be tax-paying adults. Over the long-run, and including the contribution of descendants, the NRC report found an overall positive impact by immigrants, an average net $80,000 for an immigrant over his or her lifetime (in 1996 dollars). “Under most scenarios, the long-run fiscal impact is strongly positive at the federal level, but substantially negative at the state and local level. The federal impact is shared evenly across the population, but these negative state and local impacts are concentrated in the few states that receive most of the immigrants,” the report said.

We asked Trump’s campaign for his source, but we haven’t received it. He could be referring to a 2010 study by the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform, which estimated that the net cost of illegal immigration on the federal and state and local levels to be $99 billion a year. That figure includes costs associated with the U.S.-born children (and therefore U.S. citizens) of parents with illegal status, such as public school education costs and health care. Education makes up most — 59 percent — of FAIR’s estimate for state and local costs.

The American Immigration Council, whose mission is to encourage “immigrant integration,” criticized FAIR’s report, saying that “over half of FAIR’s cost estimate consists of educational and healthcare expenditures for the children of unauthorized immigrants, of whom nearly three-quarters are native-born U.S. citizens.” FAIR doesn’t then estimate state and federal tax revenue from such U.S.-born children who are adults.

It also includes costs for immigration enforcement and prosecution, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s $2.5 billion budget for its Office of Detention and Removal.

Immigrants and Crime

The Trump immigration plan also falsely claims that a government report in 2011 found the “incarcerated alien population” was responsible for “3 million arrests.” The number is actually 1.7 million, and it includes some arrests that did not result in convictions.

Trump immigration plan, August: In 2011, the Government Accountability Office found that there were a shocking 3 million arrests attached to the incarcerated alien population, including tens of thousands of violent beatings, rapes and murders.

The “3 million arrests” figure cited in Trump’s plan links to a conservative blog post about a 2011 GAO report on “criminal aliens,” who are defined as “noncitizens convicted of crimes while in this country legally or illegally.” So, the report isn’t just about people living in the U.S. illegally.

The GAO analyzed a random sample of 1,000 criminal aliens and their arrest records from August 1955 to April 2010. “Based on our random sample of 1,000 criminal aliens, we estimate that our study population of about 249,000 criminal aliens were arrested about 1.7 million times, averaging about 7 arrests per criminal alien, slightly lower than the 8 arrests per criminal alien we reported in 2005,” the report said.

We should note that the report says that the total “alien population” — that is, non-U.S. citizens — was 25.3 million in fiscal year 2009.

Those 1.7 million arrests did not all result in criminal convictions or even prosecutions. As the report says, “An arrest does not necessarily result in prosecution or a conviction.”

So where did Trump’s campaign get “3 million arrests”?

The 3 million figure is actually 2.9 million, and it refers to the number of “arrest offenses” — estimated offenses alleged to have been committed by the study population of 249,000 criminal aliens. About a third of those alleged offenses were immigration offenses (529,859) and traffic violations (404,788).

As for the “tens of thousands” of “violent beatings, rapes and murders” cited by the Trump campaign, the GAO report says the estimated number of assaults (213,047), sex offenses (69,929) and homicides (25,064) accounted for 10 percent of the alleged 2.9 million offenses. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points, so the number of estimated rape and murder offenses is within the margin of error.

Trump’s plan implies that immigrants, living here both legally and illegally, are more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. But the report does not say that. It makes no comparison of crimes committed by immigrants to crimes committed by U.S. citizens.

Bianca Bersani, director of the Criminal Justice Program at the University of Massachusetts, did make such a comparison in 2012 research paper published in Justice Quarterly and concluded that “immigrants, regardless of generational status, pose no greater criminal threat than the general native-born population.”

Bersani compared crime data of first- and second-generation immigrants with the crime data of native U.S. citizens. She writes, “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course. Moreover, it appears that by the second generation, immigrants have simply caught up to their native-born counterparts in respect to their offending.”

Visa Overstays

Trump said that until Mexico paid for a wall across the southern border, he would, among other measures, increase fees on border crossing cards issued to Mexicans and NAFTA worker visas from Mexico, both of which he called a “major source of visa overstays.” But we could find no evidence that these were major sources of overstays.

Robert Warren, a senior visiting fellow with the Center for Migration Studies and former director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s statistics division, has studied and written about unauthorized immigration for decades. He told us he doesn’t have any data on overstays due to border crossing cards or NAFTA visas. “I’m pretty certain of one thing, though,” he wrote in an email, “nobody else has any data on this, including DHS, Donald Trump, or his staff.”

A 2014 Congressional Research Service report said that “reliable estimates of the number of nonimmigrant overstays are not available,” because the Department of Homeland Security “does not have reliable data on emigration and nonimmigrant departures.” Indeed, when we contacted DHS’ Office of Immigration Statistics, we were told that it didn’t have any statistics on visa overstays.

However, the scant research that does exist suggests that border crossing cards have not been a major source of visa overstays in the past. That may have changed in recent years, but there’s no data to show it. With NAFTA work visas, so few are issued each year in comparison with other visas, it’s doubtful they would be a major source of overstays.

Border crossing cards are valid for 10 years after being issued, except for some children under the age of 15. They are considered the same as a B1/B2 visitor’s visa and are issued to those with Mexican citizenship and residency, a Mexican passport, and demonstrated ties to Mexico that would compel them to return. The fee is $160 for those 15 and over. NAFTA professional work visas, which have the same fee amount, are issued to Canadian or Mexican citizens with prearranged employment in certain NAFTA professions in the United States.

The best, and most recent, estimate on overstays appears to be a 2006 Pew Research Center fact sheet. In 2010, John Morton, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, cited in congressional testimony Pew’s 2006 estimates, and a footnote to his testimony said that the Office of Immigration Statistics “agrees the Pew analysis is the best existing estimate on the visa overstay population.” The Pew Research Center told us that it did not have a more recent report.

Pew’s 2006 fact sheet said: “As much as 45% of the total unauthorized migrant population entered the country with visas that allowed them to visit or reside in the U.S. for a limited amount of time.” Pew put the number of visa overstays, mostly for tourist or business visas, it said, at 4 million to 5.5 million for 2005. It said that those violating the terms of border crossing cards was another 250,000 to 500,000 people.

All told that would make violators of border crossing cards 4 percent to 12 percent of all those who entered legally but now reside illegally in the U.S. At the time, Pew estimated the total unauthorized population at 11.5 million to 12 million, which is slightly larger than Pew’s current estimate of 11.3 million for 2014.

That would indicate that the border crossing card is not a major source of visa overstays. These numbers are quite dated, but they are the best we have.

The conservative immigration group FAIR cites a congressional study from the 1980s on its website. That study, which surveyed immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who were able to apply for legal status under a 1986 immigration law, found just 3 percent of them had violated the terms of a border crossing card. FAIR also notes that “there are no reliable data” on visa overstays.

Trump said that the U.S. issues “about 1 million [border crossing cards] to Mexican nationals each year,” and that’s accurate. State Department figures show more than 1 million border crossing cards were issued annually from 2011 through 2014, with 1.2 million being issued last year. That represents most of the visas that were issued from offices in Mexico: The total number of visas issued for 2014 in Mexico was 1,484,180, according to the State Department.

The Migration Policy Institute’s Rosenblum told us the problem with border crossing cards wasn’t technically overstays but document fraud — people will use someone else’s card to cross the border. But we “don’t know exactly how big that problem is.” Rosenblum said that the conventional wisdom was that tourist visas were a big share of overstays, and that overstayers were more likely to be non-Mexicans — Europeans, Asians and South Americans.

As for NAFTA visas, not many are issued in comparison with other visas. In 2014, a total of 18,578 NAFTA professional visas were issued, which would include those to both Mexican and Canadian citizens. (In 2010, the number was only about 6,000.) There were a total of 9.9 million visas issued in 2014, with the largest category by far being B1/B2 tourist and business visas (6.3 million), followed by border crossing cards. This makes it highly doubtful that the small number of NAFTA visas issued would then be a “major source” of visa overstays, as Trump claimed. But, as we’ve explained, we do not have detailed or recent enough data to precisely determine the exact sources of visa overstays.

The annual number of visa overstays may have dropped in recent years. The 2014 CRS report highlighted 2013 studies, conducted by Robert Warren and University of Minnesota sociology professor John Robert Warren, which found that the annual number of visa overstays from 2000 to 2009 fell 73 percent, from 705,000 per year to 190,000 per year. They cautioned, however, that these were estimates and “[n]o direct information” on overstays was available.

— Lori Robertson and Eugene Kiely, with D’Angelo Gore

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