AP FACT CHECK: Biden skews figures on border and taxes


President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday misstated the reality at the U.S.-Mexico border when he asserted that “nothing has changed” in the numbers of children coming to the United States since his predecessor, Donald Trump, was in office. The numbers are up since Biden became president on Jan. 20.

In his first presidential news conference, Biden also offered a misleading account of who’s getting the most benefits from the Trump tax cuts.

A look at Biden’s remarks:

BIDEN, asked about the increase in immigrant children crossing the border: “Truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came — 28% increase in children to the border in my administration; 31% in the last year in 2019, before the pandemic — in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.”

THE FACTS: The president erred. Unaccompanied immigrant children have come to the border at a higher percentage than what he said.

According to statistics published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, authorities encountered 9,457 children without a parent in February, a 61% increase from January, not 28%. The numbers of unaccompanied children did rise 31% between January 2019 and February 2019.

Asked about Biden’s statement, the Homeland Security Department pointed to figures for all border crossings, including adults and families traveling together. There was a 28% rise in all encounters with migrants between January and last month, compared with 31% between the same months in 2019. But Biden specifically noted a rise “in children.”

Biden correctly noted seasonal trends in migration and a tendency in many years for more border crossings before hot summer months. But while he tried to play down his inauguration as a reason many children and teenagers have decided to migrate to the U.S., people interviewed by The Associated Press have expressed hope that the country would be more permissive to migrants under Biden than under Trump.

BIDEN on Republicans who contend his pandemic relief package is too expensive: “Do you hear them complain when they passed (a) close to $2 trillion Trump tax cut, with 83% going to the top 1%? Do you hear them talk about that at all?”

THE FACTS: That’s misleading. The tax cuts disproportionately favor the top 1%, but not nearly as much as Biden and many Democrats claim.

Biden can cite his figure because many of the Trump tax cuts for families and individuals will expire, unless Congress extends them. If they expire as scheduled, 83% of the tax cuts that remain in place will go to the top 1% of earners in 2027, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

But’s it’s not the case that the highest 1% of income earners are getting 83% of the benefits now or over the next several years. Biden is expected to propose a corporate tax increase that would undo a lot of what Trump achieved in his 2017 overhaul.

Merchant reported from Houston. Associated Press writers David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island, and Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen contributed to this report.

EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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