Verify: Did DACA spur child border crossings, violent gangs?

We wanted to verify a statement from President Trump. Is it true that DACA spurred child border crossings and even violent gangs? (Sept. 8, 2017)

President Donald Trump has given Congress six months to legalize Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, after U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced Tuesday the program would wind down.

During the buzz, a statement on DACA from Trump caught our attention.

He claimed the program, which gives temporary protection from deportation to almost 800,000 immigrants, helped spur a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America and “in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13.”

We wanted to verify this statement. Is it true that DACA spurred child border crossings and even violent gangs?

Here’s what we found out:

The timeline doesn't add up

DACA requires applicants to have been living in the United States continuously since 2007.

In June 2014, The Washington Post cited a leaked Border Patrol memo that said migrants crossed into the U.S. to take advantage of a U.S. law that grants a “free pass.”

But both the Department of Homeland Security and the White House said at the time that amnesty perceptions were not the "leading cause of the crisis."

We asked Kevin Johnson, University of California, Davis Law School Dean and immigration expert whether fleeing immigrants thought they’d get amnesty because of DACA.

“There is no evidence supporting that theory,” Johnson said. “Rather, the research shows that Central Americans were fleeing widespread criminal violence.”

In fact, DHS said in July 2014 that violence and poverty were pushing unaccompanied minors to flee from Central America into the U.S.

What about the gangs?

DACA requires recipients have no felony convictions or significant misdemeanors, which dispels the second portion of Trump’s claim.

Héctor Silva Ávalos is a research fellow at American University in Washington, D.C. and an expert on the MS-13 gang which has El Salvador ties. 

He didn’t mince words on Trump’s claim.

“This is a lie. All DACA recipients have been carefully vetted by DHS,” said Ávalos. 

To recap:

  • The minors fleeing Central America for the U.S. would not have been eligible for DACA because of the requirement that they'd lived continuously in the U.S. since 2007.
  • They couldn’t have a serious criminal record either.
  • At one point in time, federal officials have even said that they fled because of violence and poverty.
  • Experts we spoke with said it wasn’t because of claims of a “free pass.”

Bottom line, Trump’s claim is not verified.

VERIFY: Sources 

Kevin Johnson, University of California, Davis Law School Dean

Héctor Silva Ávalos, American University research fellow

The White House, "Statement from President Donald J. Trump," Sept. 5, 2017

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)," accessed Sept. 6, 2017

The Washington Post, "Influx of minors across Texas border driven by belief that they will be allowed to stay in U.S.," June 13, 2014

Pew Research Center, "DHS: Violence, poverty, is driving children to flee Central America to U.S.," July 1, 2014

VERIFY: Resources

READ: President's Trump full statement on DACA

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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