Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Jane C. Timm

President Donald Trump, in his midterm pitch to voters, has repeatedly sought to brand the Democratic Party as the "party of crime," painting for his supporters a dim, dystopian portrait of his political opponents.

"I have said it, and I will say it as many times as you want to hear it, and it is because of their policy. The Democrats are truly the party of crime," Trump said earlier this month at a campaign rally.

Let's take a look at the claims Trump uses to back up this argument in two different speeches — an October 1 rally in Tennessee and a Virginia rally on October 13 — and the facts behind them.

Claim: "The Democrats to want to open our borders to a flood of deadly drugs and ruthless gangs," Trump said in Virginia.

Democrats do not support open borders.

The party opposed the border wall Trump campaigned on— arguing that it is an expensive and ineffective way to secure borders — but many Democrats voted to fund border fencing and other security initiatives in the past. The party’s 2016 official platform vows to “tackle the rise of drugs, transnational crime, and corruption.”

Claim: Democrats "want to abolish ICE, immigration enforcement entirely," Trump said in Tennessee.

Some Democrats have advocated for eliminating the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and rethinking immigration enforcement, but none have advocated for completely ending all immigration enforcement.

ICE has only existed for 15 years; immigration enforcement existed long before the agency.

Claim: Democrats "want to turn America into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and MS-13 thugs. And don’t kid yourself, that's what’s going to happen,” Trump said in the Virginia rally.

Trump is kidding himself: Democrats have not expressed or even hinted at a desire to encourage and support crime or gang members.

Claim: "They support sanctuary cities that allow violent crime, MS-13," Trump said in Tennessee.

Trump’s claim that sanctuary cities encourage rampant crime and gang activity is unsubstantiated.

There's no evidence sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, foster crime or gangs, or are more crime-ridden than other cities without sanctuary policies.

An immigration violation is considered a civil offense. Advocates and police say keeping civil immigration enforcement and criminal police enforcement separate helps police fight crime, because immigrants aren’t afraid to talk to police and report crime.

Claim: "The only immigration policy Democrats support is catch and release. How about that one, you catch a criminal thug, you take the name, and then you release them and say please show up in five years to court. Number one it’s ridiculous, number two they never show up. What a mess," Trump said in Virginia.

This is false on several levels. There is no current or proposed policy known as "catch and release," though Trump frequently uses the term to decry protections afforded to children and families seeking asylum in the U.S., which includes releasing some undocumented immigrants pending immigration court proceedings.

U.S. courts do not allow children to be detained for long periods of time, which is why they are typically released — though the Trump administration separated thousands of children from their parents this spring in an effort to prosecute those adults instead of releasing them. Democrats have supported a bill that would bar such family separations. Trump has falsely described that bill as an "open borders bill."

Some immigrants released into the U.S. pending immigration court appearances do skip court appearances, but not all. Women and children have extremely high compliance rates with court appearances if they are able to obtain legal counsel, advocates add.

Claim: Democrats "want to give health care to illegal aliens," Trump said in Tennessee.

It's true that California Democrats have pushed for a bill that extends universal health care to include undocumented immigrants in the state. Some argue that the state already pays for immigrant health care through emergency room services, which cannot deny care based on immigration status.

National Democrats have not advanced such legislation, but the nation's largest blue state is often a testing ground for progressive ideas.