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AP Fact Check: Biden skews record on migrants; GOP on virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking a swipe at his predecessor, President Joe Biden gave a distorted account of the historical forces driving migrants to the U.S. border, glossing over the multitudes who were desperate to escape poverty in their homelands when he was vice president.

In his speech to Congress on Wednesday night, Biden also made his spending plans sound more broadly supported in Washington than they are.

The Republican response to Biden’s speech departed from reality particularly on the subject of the pandemic. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina tried to give the Trump administration credit for turning the tide on the coronavirus in what was actually the deadliest phase.

A look at some of the claims:

IMMIGRATION

BIDEN: “If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass (immigration legislation) so over 11 million undocumented folks, the vast majority who are here overstaying visas, pass it.”

THE FACTS: He’s making an unsubstantiated claim.

There is no official count of how many people entered the country legally and overstayed visas. The government estimates that 11.4 million were living in the country illegally as of January 2018 but doesn’t distinguish between how many entered legally and stayed after their visas expired and how many arrived illegally.

Robert Warren of the Center for Migration Studies of New York, a former director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s statistics division who has studied visa overstays for decades, has done the most recent work on the issue. He estimated that, as of 2018, 46% of people in the country illegally overstayed visas — not a majority, let alone a “vast majority.”

BIDEN: “When I was vice president, the president asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it. I’m restoring the program and I asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this.”

THE FACTS: That’s wrong.

Biden led Obama’s efforts to address a spike in migration from Central America, but poverty and violence have been endemic for decades. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid have gone to Central America annually, even during Donald Trump’s presidency, but migration from Mexico and Central America has continued unabated with periodic spikes.

In March, the number of unaccompanied children encountered by U.S. border authorities reached nearly 19,000, the highest number on record in the third major surge of families and children from Central America since 2014 under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Biden championed aid during what Obama called “a humanitarian crisis” of Central American children at the border in 2014. But while assistance fell under Trump, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed in every year. Biden has proposed $861 million in Central American aid next year as a first installment on a $4 billion plan, compared with annual outlays of between $506 million and $750 million over the previous six years

SPENDING

BIDEN, on his economic proposals: “There’s a broad consensus of economists — left, right, center — and they agree that what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth.”

THE FACTS: He’s glossing over the naysayers. Some economists, also bridging the ideological spectrum, say he’s spending too much or in the wrong way. Biden’s pandemic relief plan did enjoy some bipartisan support.

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