The Corner

Immigration

In Trump’s First Two Years, Border Deaths Declined

President Donald Trump answers questions on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 15, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

A tragic photograph of the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, who drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas, renewed outrage about the border crisis. Politicians expressed their indignation at the image while, predictably, blaming the Trump administration.

Several Democratic presidential candidates tweeted their outrage. Senator Kamala Harris, tweeted: “Trump says, ‘Go back to where you came from.’ That is inhumane. Children are dying. This is a stain on our moral conscience.” Beto O’Rourke tweeted: “Trump is responsible for these deaths.” Senator Cory Booker, tweeted: “These are the consequences of Donald Trump’s inhumane and immoral immigration policy.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden also tweeted about the tragic photo: “This image is gut-wrenching. The cruelty we’re seeing at our border is unconscionable. History will judge how we respond to the Trump Administration’s treatment of immigrant families & children — we can’t be silent. This isn’t who we are. This is not America.”

But the reality is that deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border decreased after Donald Trump became president, according to data from the United States Border Patrol. During the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years they averaged 291 per year, down from 372 during the Obama/Biden administration and 382 under Bush.

Granted, data also show that President Trump benefited from a longer-term downward trend of illegal border crossings that started during President Bush’s second term (based on border-apprehension data). All else equal, the fewer the border crossings, the lower the number of people who die. But the fact remains that the totals from 2017 (298) and 2018 (283) are two of the lowest since 1999 — and there was no mass outcry in earlier years with much higher numbers.

President Trump’s focus on immigration policies has certainly made him a target for political opponents. The demagoguery of left-wing politicians and media pundits created a false narrative that the policies of the Trump administration have resulted in these types of border deaths even though they have existed for nearly two decades. Americans deserve to know the truth about this topic.

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