WASHINGTON (AP) — President Trump is going after the "horror show" known as the diversity visa lottery program, but his description of it is pure fiction.
The president offered a multitude of fabrications and partial truths last week on the subject of immigration — both the legal and illegal varieties — as he declared a national emergency aimed at finding the money to build his border wall. He said drugs are flowing across the hinterlands from Mexico, not from border crossings, and suggested that the federal prison population is laden with hardened criminals who are in the U.S. illegally. Neither claim is substantiated.
Along the way, the president took unearned credit for developments in the auto industry, health care for veterans and trade with China.
Here’s a look at the rhetoric and the reality:
TRUMP: "And then you have the lottery. It's a horror show, because when countries put people into the lottery, they're not putting you in; they're putting some very bad people in the lottery. It's common sense. If I ran a country, and if I have a lottery system of people going to the United States, I'm not going to put in my stars; I'm going to put in people I don't want." — Rose Garden remarks Friday.
THE FACTS: That's completely false. He says this often anyway.
The lottery program is run by the U.S. government, not foreign governments. Other countries do not get to sort through their populations looking for bad apples to put in for export to the U.S. Citizens of qualifying countries are the ones who decide to bid for visas under the program.
The program requires applicants to have completed a high school education or have at least two years of experience in the last five years in a selection of fields identified by the Labor Department. Out of that pool of people from certain countries who meet those conditions, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of winners. Not all winners will have visas ultimately approved, because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly. Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
The lottery is extended to citizens of most countries, except about 20. The primary goal is to diversify the immigrant population by creating slots for underrepresented parts of the world.
TRUMP: "I've built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money, and I've built a lot of wall." — Rose Garden remarks .
THE FACTS: He's built no new miles of wall, lacking the money. His new construction to date has replaced existing barriers.
This month marks the start of construction of 14 miles (22 kilometers) of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the first lengthening of barrier in his presidency. That's from money approved by Congress a year ago, most of which was for renovating existing barrier.
Money approved by Congress in the new deal to avert another government shutdown would cover about 55 more miles (88 km).
Trump often has often portrayed his wall, falsely, as largely complete, to a point where "Finish the wall" has become his rallying cry, replacing "Build the wall." That masks a distinct lack of progress in physically sealing the border — a frustration that is now prompting him to find money outside the normal channels of congressional appropriation. Trump inherited about 650 miles (1,050 km) of physical border barrier from previous administrations.
TRUMP, on past presidents declaring national emergencies: "There's rarely been a problem. They sign it; nobody cares. I guess they weren't very exciting. But nobody cares. ... And the people that say we create precedent — well, what do you have? Fifty-six? There are a lot of times — well, that's creating precedent. And many of those are far less important than having a border." — Rose Garden remarks.