Candidates during Tuesday night’s GOP debate capitalized on the growing fear that another ISIL-inspired terrorist attack could occur, or be in the works in the United States. Many of the national security and privacy questions revolved around balancing civil liberties with keeping Americans safe.
Various statements attempting to illustrate the weakness of our current security procedures, ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz misinterpreting FBI director James Comey’s comments to Congress, to Donald Trump making questionable assertions that immigration from Mexico is increasing dramatically under President Obama.
Whether eventual Republican primary voters care about the truth behind these “facts” is unclear. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the most controversial statements from the CNN debate and assess their actual verity.
Ted Cruz stated that FBI director James Comey testified to Congress that, “they cannot vet refugees” from Syria. The point Cruz was trying to make is clear: ISIL will, if we let refugees from Syria into this country, increasingly infiltrate our borders. This is mostly false. The refugee vetting process is extremely lengthy and intricate, often taking years to complete. Additionally, Cruz’s interpretation of Comey’s comments is flatly inconsistent with what the FBI director actually said.
Cruz intensified the fear-mongering direction that the Republican party is moving in. Trump piled on: “Our country is out of control. People are pouring over the Southern border.” A statement like this is perfect to attract xenophobic or over-afraid voters to his cause, but is again, false.
Illegal immigration is at a two-decade trough. Arrest numbers at the border (considered the best measure of illegal immigration) have dropped from their high of 1.6 million in 2000 to around 400,000 each year since 2012, according to DHS data. They are down significantly in 2015.
CNN's Reality Check indicates that President Obama has been increasing deportations of illegal immigrants, which is completely contrary to the Republican narrative. From 2009-2013 -- the years Obama has been in office where data is available -- 3.8 million undocumented immigrants were either "removed" or "returned."
We will continue to see exaggerations as we get closer to voting, and Obama’s policies will take the brunt of Republican “truthiness” — a term coined by Stephen Colbert during his time on Comedy Central.
Let’s hope fact checkers get more attention. Sure, politicians can manipulate facts and distort half-truths in different ways to further their chosen policies, but when you’re flatly making false statements to the American people, (hopefully) something is going to give.