ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — "Oh, we're going to build a wall. Don't worry."
Donald Trump returned to Ohio Tuesday for the first time since becoming the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee. He used examples of crime and drug trafficking to fire up his eastern Ohio crowd about immigrants who are living in the U.S. without legal permission. The solution, Trump said: his signature proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
The Cincinnati Enquirer dove into Trump's statements about unauthorized immigration in Ohio. Here's what we found.
What Trump said:
“Many people living in Ohio have been severely victimized by illegal immigrants. You know that, right? ...
“For example: Recently, in Lake County, an illegal immigrant was indicted on 16 counts, including murder and attempted rape. That illegal immigrant had been previously released through Obama’s non-enforcement policies. (Crowd boos.) Went on a rampage. Went on a rampage, right?"
Trump's Lake County example is true.
Juan Razo, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico, agreed to plead guilty to 16 counts after killing one woman, shooting another and attempting to rape a 14-year-old girl, all on July 27. Local law enforcement officers had stopped Razo about three weeks before he committed the crimes, but U.S. immigration officials declined to detain Razo. Under the Obama administration, immigration and border officials have prioritized detaining and deporting unauthorized immigrants if they have criminal backgrounds.
But that's only one example. It's an exaggeration to say "many people" have been "severely victimized" by unauthorized immigrants.
In 2015, federal officials deported 1,966 immigrants for criminal activity in Ohio and Michigan combined. (The feds do not break down this data for each state.) That's out of the estimated 95,000 immigrants in Ohio and 120,000 in Michigan who lack authorization to live in the U.S., according to the most recent figures from the Pew Research Center. The rate works out to just under 1% of those immigrants in Ohio and Michigan.
What Trump said:
After mentioning the Lake County case, Trump continued: “From 2013 to 2014, the number of drug-related overdose deaths in Ohio increased by nearly 20%. So, look, folks. We need the wall. We need to stop illegal immigration. We will stop it. We’re not going to have drugs pouring into our country and destroying our youth — and others, by the way.”
He’s right about this: Ohio saw an 18.3% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2013 to 2014, which is huge.
But about that wall keeping out drugs or curbing overdose deaths? Not so much.
Here's how we know: Decades of fighting the so-called war on drugs through law enforcement and in courts haven’t prevented this crisis. And while Mexican cartels spotted the U.S. market for heroin, the opioid epidemic started here at home, with Americans getting hooked on prescription painkillers.
“There’s domestic sources of all of the drugs,” says Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago professor and co-director of its Crime Lab.
In a 2014 study, Pollack and Peter Reuter, of the University of Maryland, found no evidence that attempts at eliminating the supply of drugs wipes out access to them.
“Of course, there is little reason to believe immigration and border enforcement are particularly valuable or relevant levers in the opioid O.D. issue,” Pollack said.