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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Immigration Comments by Jeb, Trump, and Rubio's Tax Proposal

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From left, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump at the Boulder, Colo. debate

Comments about the refugee crisis from Syria, illegal immigration and new tax policies have been coming from some of Florida's candidates for president. So we check the Truth-o-Meter on these with PolitiFact Florida.

A lot of the comments over the weekend at the Republican Party's Sunshine Summit in Orlando targeted illegal immigration.

Many of them, particularly from candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, were designed to throw a little red meat to the more conservative members of the audience.

But Floridians like Jeb Bush took a more measured approach. He has assailed proposals to deport the estimated 11 million people in this country illegally as fantasy.

The day after the summit, Bush told CNN "It takes almost a year for a refugee to be processed in the United States."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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So how long does it take? Worldwide, about a year to 18 months, according to a State Department fact-sheet cited by the Bush campaign. A different page on the State Department website estimates an average time of 18 to 24 months.
For refugees from Syria and similar countries, however, the process can span two years, a spokesperson for the State Department told the Voice of America in September. Experts confirmed that two years is the average review duration for Syrian refugees, which means that some wait even longer. "It can actually take almost three years. (Bush) is being optimistic," said Lavinia Limón, the president of the advocacy group, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. "The process for refugees is the most extensive security screening we have for visitors. It’s easier to come in as a tourist, a student, a businessman." Even if they weren’t from countries where terrorism was a concern, refugees would be "lucky" if the process took less than a year, Limón said. She pointed out that since the refugee program for Central American minors was established a year ago, the United States has yet to admit one child. The length and thoroughness of the U.S. vetting system sets it apart from the "chaotic, dangerous process" for refugees fleeing into Europe by sea, said Geoffrey Mock, the Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA. Refugees enter European countries as asylum seekers and are granted access into the country without a thorough vetting from the UN. Scrutiny comes later. "No vetting process can make guarantees, but the population identified by the UN and vetted by both organizations has worked successfully in alleviating crises in dozens of other countries, including Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Central African Republic," Mock said. "There’s no reason to believe Syria will be any different." In other words, the process for admitting a Syrian asylum seeker into France is much simpler than the process for resettling a Syrian refugee into the United States. "The U.S. refugee program is incredibly controlled. You can be 99.9 percent sure that guy wouldn’t have gotten here," Limón said. "I understand the kneejerk reaction but you’re painting a very broad brush stroke. Refugees, by definition, are fleeing terrorism. What happened in Paris, they’ve experienced. They’ve seen family members slaughtered and their houses burnt and they’re running for their lives." Our ruling Bush said, "It takes almost a year for a refugee to be processed in the United States." Bush actually gave the low estimate for how long the refugee admissions process takes. The worldwide average is between a year to a year and a half. For Syrian refugees, it takes two years on average. Bush’s overall point is correct, and his estimate is in the ballpark if even low. We rate his claim Mostly True.

Keeping on the immigrant angle with the candidates in Orlando, Donald Trump reiterated his earlier comment that President Dwight D. Eisenhower deported 1.5 million immigrants back to their home countries in the 1950's:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7UuuEFPGN0

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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Beginning in World War II -- during a severe shortage of workers on the home front -- the federal government instituted the Bracero program, which brought Mexican workers into the United States to fill jobs that would not otherwise be filled. The Braceros were in the country legally, but the government often looked the other way when companies illegally brought their own Mexican workers into the country.
In 1954, workers brought in outside the Bracero program, combined with Mexicans who had crossed the border illegally on their own, were the targets of a program called -- and this is really what it was called --  "Operation Wetback." The intention was to target illegal immigrants, though some U.S. citizens of Mexican ancestry were also caught up in the dragnet. Determining the number of people who were deported in "Operation Wetback" is tricky because some people who would have otherwise been subject to deportation were expected to leave the country "voluntarily" (or self-deportation). We came across estimates of forced removals ranging from 250,000 to 1.3 million. "The (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service) claimed as many as 1.3 million, though the number officially apprehended did not come anywhere near this total," according to the Texas State Historical Association’s online handbook, produced in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin.   The case of California is a good example. The INS (which was reorganized out of existence in 2003) said 540,000 people were to be deported from California alone during the campaign, said Don Mitchell, a geography professor at Syracuse University. But at least 485,000 would have had to deport themselves, and there’s no evidence that they actually returned to Mexico in those numbers. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a history professor at the University of California Los Angeles, puts the maximum number of people actually deported during the operation at 250,000. The vast majority of the program took place during fiscal year 1955, which registered just about 254,000 apprehensions total, she wrote in a 2010 report. Re-entry What about Trump’s point that authorities deported people to more southern locations in Mexico to stop them from easily re-entering the United States? In earlier 20th century immigration control efforts, Border Patrol found that deporting immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border allowed them to easily cross back into the United States, according to Hernandez’s paper. Starting in the 1940s, the United States would take deportees to the border, and from there Mexican authorities would take them to the country’s interior either by train or boat, primarily. This continued during Operation Wetback, so Trump has a bit of a point there. It’s worth noting that transportation conditions for the deportees bordered on inhumane in some cases. According to historian Mae M. Ngai, 88 people died in a July deportation round-up because of the heat. But attempts to relocate people to the Mexican interior did not always stop them from returning to the United States, Mitchell said. Many returned illegally or legally as guest workers. "It is absolutely the case that sending folks to the interior did not stop them from returning," he said. "It might be the case that some were discouraged, but others returned." Further, the operation was more about policy changes that actually allowed more opportunities for immigrants to gain legal status through work visas than it was about deportation, Hernandez told PolitiFact. The campaign would have been "a complete failure" had it not been for the guest worker program that accompanied it, wrote Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute. Nowrasteh noted that low levels of undocumented immigration in the 1950s was more likely a result of the guest worker program, rather than the 1954 deportation campaign. The guest worker program ended in 1965. "On the whole, though, Trump’s comments are undoubtedly an exaggeration and a bit of a twist on the facts," Mitchell said. Our ruling Trump said President Eisenhower "moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country." Trump is referring to a 1954 campaign known as "Operation Wetback." While the idea that the operation resulted in more than 1 million deportations is not pulled out of thin air, historians widely cite that number as far too high for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants would have had to self-deport. Also, it wasn’t just a deportation program. The campaign accompanied more legal immigration opportunities. We rate Trump’s claim Half True.

Finally, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says Marco Rubio is proposing a new $1 trillion "welfare program" in tax credits and "$1 trillion in new military spending."

"So, here's what we have. Is it conservative to have $1 trillion in transfer payments - a new welfare program that's a refundable tax credit? Add that to Marco's plan for $1 trillion in new military spending, and you get something that looks, to me, not very conservative," Paul said in the Nov. 10 GOP debate.

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Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Rubio’s tax plan includes creating a new, partially refundable child tax credit of up to $2,500 per child. It is meant to offset income and payroll taxes and is considerably larger than the $1,000 credit that is currently available.
Refundable tax credits help people at the lower end of the income scale, in that people who are too poor to pay any income tax can get money back from the government. Paul’s campaign referred us to a March 2015 analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation of a tax plan proposed in the Senate by Rubio and U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. That analysis estimated the credit would result in a loss of tax revenue of about $170 billion per year. That’s the equivalent of $1.7 trillion over 10 years -- 10 years being a common time frame for federal budget planning. But it’s worth noting that Paul didn’t say 10 years in making his claim. We’ll note that, unlike the original Rubio-Lee plan, Rubio as a candidate is proposing that the credit would be phased out at higher income levels --  beginning at $150,000 for an individual and $300,000 for a family. That would mean the lost revenue would be something less than $1.7 trillion over 10 years, but still well above $1 trillion, said Kyle Pomerleau, director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation, a free market-oriented think tank. That’s because relatively few people at the higher incomes have children and would be eligible for the tax credits, he told us. In other words, the tax credit is expensive, Pomerlau said, because "it’s large and nearly universal for families." The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, also did an estimate of the original tax credit proposal and came up with a figure similar to that of the Tax Foundation -- an estimated loss of nearly $1.58 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years. Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center, told us the center hasn't analyzed Rubio's current proposal. But he said a loss of $1 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years is a fair estimate. Paul’s characterization of Rubio’s tax credit as welfare is a stretch, however. Eleanor May, Paul’s campaign spokeswoman, said "giving people a refundable credit -- meaning, giving them more than they paid" is a "welfare transfer payment from one group of people to another."   But as our colleagues at PunditFact noted, even the most expansive definition of welfare --  including the cash program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children), traditional food stamps, Medicaid and the food program called Women, Infants and Children -- doesn’t include tax credits. Rubio, whose campaign did not respond to our requests for this article, noted in the debate that everyone who works pays the payroll tax. Defense spending Rubio has backed more defense spending since at least March 2015, when he and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a budget amendment to increase the Pentagon’s budget. At the time, Rubio argued that adjusted for inflation, defense spending had declined by 21 percent since 2010 -- a claim PolitiFact National rated Mostly True. Rubio’s amendment proposed restoring defense spending levels to what had been proposed in the spring of 2011, for fiscal 2012 going forward, by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates’ proposal was prior to spending limits that were imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which became law in the summer of 2011. Returning to the so-called 2012 proposed spending levels would add $1 trillion in defense spending over 10 years, Benjamin Friedman, a defense research fellow at the liberatrian Cato Institute, told us. That is also the estimate made in a July 2015 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The morning after the Milwaukee debate, Rubio was asked in a Fox News interview: "So, where are you going to get the trillion dollars from that Rand Paul says we shouldn’t be spending?" Rubio didn’t address the figure, saying: "First of all, before we fund anything, the federal government should be fully funding national security." But he has made references to the $1 trillion cost in the past. In a September 2014 speech, Rubio said he agreed with a recommendation by the bipartisan National Defense Panel to return to the 2012-level spending, "which we are on track to be around $1 trillion short of through fiscal year 2022." And on his campaign website, Rubio says he would restore defense spending to the 2012 level, "and begin to undo the damage caused by $1 trillion in indiscriminate defense cuts." Our rating Paul said Rubio is proposing a new $1 trillion "welfare program" and "$1 trillion in new military spending." It’s estimated that over 10 years, a common time frame for federal budget planning, Rubio’s child tax credit would result in the loss of $1 trillion in tax revenue; and his plan to reverse declines in Pentagon spending would cost $1 trillion. But it’s a stretch to call the tax credit welfare and in making his claim, Paul didn’t state that the $1 trillion costs would be over 10 years. We rate Paul’s statement Mostly True.