When U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he said he wanted people to come into the country in the “largest numbers ever,” so long as they come in “legally.”
Fast forward to Sunday, and he said it would be a “disaster” if 42 million Latin Americans came to the United States.
Trump was citing a Gallup poll that did, indeed, estimate that “open borders could potentially attract 42 million Latin Americans” seeking citizenship or asylum there.
In a blog, Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton wrote that these people are “watching to determine exactly when and how is the best time to make the move.”
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The numbers were based on a poll in which Gallup asked respondents, “ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move to another country permanently if you could?”
Clifton said that Gallup asked “the whole population of Latin America” this question, noting that there are 33 countries in that part of the world, with 450 million adults living there.
Of the people asked, a “whopping” 27 per cent said “yes,” Clifton asserted — and of those, 35 per cent said they wanted to head for the United States.
The results “suggest” that as many as five million people who plan on moving in the next year, Clifton asserted.
Those assertions aren’t quite consistent with the poll’s methodology, however.
The question was asked of 453,122 adults aged 15 and older, located in 152 countries, between 2015 and 2017.
The poll had a margin of error of one per cent, with a 95 per cent confidence interval.
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The president used those numbers to boost his case for new construction along America’s southwest border, seeking billions in order to shore it up and control undocumented immigration, as funding negotiations carry on between Republicans and Democrats.
But the poll did not necessarily show that 42 million Latin Americans are set to move to the United States, nor did it suggest what their legal status would be, nor mention the border by which they would arrive.
In his blog, Clifton asked what the plan is should these many immigrants come: “what is the message to those millions who will seek entrance either legally or illegally?”
Were five million immigrants to come from Latin America in the next year, they would vastly outnumber previous years — in fact, they would dwarf the total number of people from every country who obtained lawful permanent resident status from 2015 to 2017.
Just over 3.4 million people obtained permanent residency in the U.S. in that time frame.
It would also outnumber the number of aliens apprehended by U.S. enforcement authorities between 2014 and 2016: there were about 1.7 million in that period.
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And that’s without considering the numbers specific to America’s southwest border.
There were 521,090 enforcement actions along the border in the 2018 fiscal year, which was higher than it was in 2017 — 415,517.
That included both apprehensions, representing people who were arrested, as well as inadmissibles, which covers people who are not admitted to the United States, individuals seeking humanitarian protection and those who withdraw applications for entry and return to their countries in a short time frame.
Meanwhile, there was another Gallup poll that Trump didn’t mention on Sunday morning — one suggesting that most Americans are not on board with his plan for construction on a border wall.
The poll found that six-in-10 respondents oppose “significant new construction on border walls,” and that 81 per cent support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Sixty-one per cent of respondents also opposed deporting all illegal immigrants back to their countries — though that was down from 66 per cent in 2016.
That poll spoke with over 1,000 adults aged 18 or older in 50 U.S. states between Jan. 21 and 27.