FACT CHECK: President Trump gives Oval Office speech on border wall

CHICAGO (WLS) -- President Donald Trump spoke from the Oval Office Tuesday evening to draw a line in the sand on America's southern border.

The teleprompter speech was planned for eight minutes and went nine and a half, live from inside the Oval office.

READ: Full text of Trump's speech on border security

A campaign letter to his supporters Tuesday teed up the speech. The president wrote, "Drugs are poisoning our loved ones; MS-13 gang members are threatening our safety; Illegal criminals are flooding our nation."

Those are frequently-cited factoids -- and often challenged as exaggerations or outright misstatements.

WATCH: Trump's full Oval Office address
EMBED More News Videos

President Donald Trump delivers address on border security from Oval Office.

Oddly, the president never mentioned terrorists coming over the border, a point he has harped on for years, perhaps because his own State Department reported "no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States."

During the speech, even a nod to Democrats was wrong, according to Democratic leaders.

WATCH: Full Democratic rebuttal from Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Schumer
EMBED More News Videos

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer deliver Democratic rebuttal to Trump's border security speech.

The president said Democrats requested his wall be made of steel and not concrete. Not true, according to a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Democrats never asked for such a change and Mr. Trump offered it up on his own.


Trump's opening claim: "My fellow Americans, tonight I'm speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day, customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country."
I-Team: The numbers are clear and provide little justification of this. The lowest number of southern border apprehensions in the past two decades came in 2017 - 303,916 - under President Trump.

While apprehensions are down in great numbers along historic trends, they have increased during the president's most recent years in office. 2018 saw roughly 92,000 more apprehensions at the southern border than 2017. In other words, they went up under his watch after a brief dip. Overall, the numbers have been under a million since 2007, and have been hovering under 500,000 since 2010.

Illegal border crossings hit 1.6 million people in 2001.

Trump: "Every day thousands of illegal immigrants attempt to enter the country at southern border."
I-Team: In 2001 there were 1.6 million illegal crossings. Last year the number was 361,000. A huge decline.

Trump: "Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Three hundred citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border."
I-Team: This is true. According to the DEA 2018 Drug Threat Assessment, the southwest border is where large amounts of drugs enter the U.S. But, it's important to note those drugs largely come through legal points of entry by citizens and legal visitors who have hidden the drugs in panel trucks and secret compartments of vans, or walked them through underground tunnels built by cartels. A border wall won't fix that.

The rapid increase in the number of drug deaths in recent years is largely attributable to fentanyl. If there is a crisis, fentanyl is it. But the fentanyl is mostly coming through the legal points of entry at the southwest border and it's not just coming into the country there; China is a significant source of fentanyl as well.

Trump: "The border wall would very quickly pay for itself through the trade deal we have with Mexico."

I-Team: There is nothing in the new trade deal that puts funds for a border wall. Congress must appropriate funding. The trade deal Trump refers to is an agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and still needs to be approved by Congress. The deal has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America, and 40 to 45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. In that agreement it is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for construction of a wall.

Trump: "The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico."
I-Team: There is no evidence that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement deal would pay for the wall.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada came to an agreement on the USMCA which is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress still needs to approve the trade deal, which has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America and 40-45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. It is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for the wall.

Trump: "At the request of Democrats it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security."
I-Team: Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill says this claim from the president is false.

Trump: Calls the border situation a "crisis."
I-Team: No experts have identified an actual new crisis at the border. Customs and Border Protection officials report 303,916 apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border for fiscal 2017, the lowest in more than 45 years. In fiscal 2018, the number of apprehensions increased to 396,579, but that was still less than half the total of 2007.

Trump: "266,000 aliens arrested in the past two years."
I-Team: That raw number is accurate-but includes thousands of non-violent offenders including those trying to reenter the U.S. or commit first-time illegal entry.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.