"Democrats left him [police killer Luis Bracamontes] in our country … Democrats let him stay … Who else would let the Democrats in? "
-Kampagnenanzeige twittered by President Trump, 31 October 2018
In the midterm elections, President Trump has focused on the threat he poses as a threat to national security, emanating from several thousand migrants making a 1,000-mile hike from Honduras through Mexico to the southern border. As part of his closing message, he tweeted a campaign video with Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant who shot and killed two Californian police officers in 2014.
As a video of the grinning Bracamontes claiming he could kill more police if he could, and scenes of Central American migrants appear, the ad blames all the Democrats. The ad concludes, "President Donald Trump and the Republicans are making America safe again."
This narrative has a big problem: it's wrong.
There is often a problem when an anecdote is used to illustrate a social problem. We have documented that there is no evidence that illegal immigrants cause more crime than US citizens. In fact, immigrants generally have lower crime rates than US citizens. Just as there are cop killers who are citizens, there are, of course, cop killers who are undocumented immigrants. However, this does not mean that undocumented immigrants kill the police faster than US citizens.
The campaign ad claims Democrats are responsible for Bracamontes being in the United States. After a review of the Arizona Republic and Sacramento Bee court records showing that his case was handled primarily by the Republicans, the following really happened.
- Bracamontes, a native of Mexico, sneaked into the United States and was arrested in 1996 for drug possession as part of an anesthetic. He spent four months in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city before being released to the Immigration Department. (Arpaio, of course, is known for his strict immigration policy and was pardoned by Trump after being convicted of disobeying a federal judge's order.)
- Bracamontes was sentenced to three years probation, but before he barely started, he was deported in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president.
- Bracamontes returned to the US and was arrested in 1998. Apparently, he was not deported after being handed over to the immigration authorities.
- Bracamontes was arrested in 2001 for drug and weapons offenses, released by the immigration authorities and re-arrested several months later.
- Bracamontes was then deported a second time – in 2001, when George W. Bush was president.
- Bracamontes returned to the United States, and records show he was married on Feb. 28, 2002 in Maricopa County; Bush was still president.
- He moved to Utah under a supposed name and had a terrible driving license. From 2003 to 2009 he had recorded 10 offenses for misdemeanors.
- Starting in 2008, the Secure Communities program was launched and expanded under Bush and Barack Obama. The program was designed to detect undocumented immigrants convicted of a crime, sentenced to prison and possibly deported.
- In August 2011, three years before the murder cases in California, the lawyer's office of Maricopa County, Bill Montgomery, advised the court to reject the Bracamontes case of 2001. Lawyers said it was "in the best interests of the court." Montgomery is a Republican.
- In 2014, Bracamontes and his wife embarked on a methamphetamine-based journey that led to the murders of police officers and their subsequent convictions.
The Pinocchio test
Trump's ad claims the Democrats let Bracamontes in and they let him stay. But the reality is that he slipped across the border under both a Democratic (Clinton) and a Republican (Bush) president and was deported from both. He came back when a Republican (Bush) was president. He then remained in the country through Obama's term – but it was a Republican official who dropped off the pending case.
Blaming every political party for Bracamontes' killing spree is a fool's game. Nobody let him in and nobody let him stay; He kept sneaking in and escaped until he killed the police officers.
The president earns four Pinocchios.
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