Decision 2024

Chicago's migrant crisis highlighted during Trump-Biden debate. How each candidate responded

Both candidates discussed immigration policy, which continues to be a topic of interest for voters

NBC Universal, Inc.

Chicago's migrant crisis was highlighted during the highly anticipated presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump Thursday.

Both candidates discussed immigration policy, which continues to be a topic of interest for voters.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has propelled the issue across the entire country with the state's "Operation Lone Star." That program busses immigrants to northern and Democratic-run cities, including Chicago.

Because of this program, mayors in New York and Chicago said last year immigration had also become a crisis.

"We found ourselves in a situation where, when [Trump] was president, he was taking, separating babies from their mothers, put them in cages, making sure the families were separated. That's not the right way to go," Biden said during the debate. "What I've done since I've changed the law, what's happened, I've changed it in a way that now you're in a situation where there are 40% fewer people coming across the border illegally. It's better than when he left office, and I'm going to continue to move until we get the total ban on the total initiative relative to what we can do with more Border Patrol and more asylum officers."

Meanwhile, Trump accused Biden of allowing mass amounts of criminals into the country and paving the way for a rise in crime.

"Look, we had the safest border in the history of our country, the border. All [Biden] had to do was leave it. All he had to do is leave it," Trump said. "He decided to open up our border, open up our country to people that are from prisons, people that are from mental institutions, insane asylums, terrorists."

Here's a fact-check on what each candidate said:


Fact check: Are other countries emptying their prisons and mental institutions to send them to the U.S.?

“He’s the one that killed people with a bad border and flooding hundreds of thousands of people dying and also killing our citizens when they come in," Trump said of Biden.

THE FACTS: A mass influx of migrants coming into the U.S. illegally across the southern border has led to a number of false and misleading claims by Trump. For example, he regularly claims other countries are emptying their prisons and mental institutions to send to the U.S. There is no evidence to support that.

Venezuela doesn’t share law enforcement information with U.S. authorities, making it very hard to verify criminal histories of immigrants coming to the U.S. But there’s no evidence that Venezuela is purposefully sending “millions” of people from mental institutions and prisons to the U.S.

Trump has also argued the influx of immigrants is causing a crime surge in the U.S., although statistics actually show violent crime is on the way down.

There have been recent high-profile and heinous crimes allegedly committed by people in the country illegally. But FBI statistics do not separate out crimes by the immigration status of the assailant, nor is there any evidence of a spike in crime perpetrated by migrants, either along the U.S.-Mexico border or in cities seeing the greatest influx of migrants, like New York. Studies have found that people living in the country illegally are less likely than native-born Americans to have been arrested for violent, drug and property crimes. For more than a century, critics of immigration have sought to link new arrivals to crime. In 1931, the Wickersham Commission did not find any evidence supporting a connection between immigration and increased crime, and many studies since then have reached similar conclusions.

Texas is the only state that tracks crimes by immigration status. A 2020 study published by the National Academy of Sciences found “considerably lower felony arrest rates” among people in the United States illegally than legal immigrants or native-born.

Some crime is expected given the large population of immigrants. There were an estimated 10.5 million people in the country illegally in 2021, according to the latest estimate by Pew Research Center, a figure that has almost certainly risen with large influxes at the border. In 2022, the Census Bureau estimated the foreign-born population at 46.2 million, or nearly 14% of the total, with most states seeing double-digit percentage increases in the last dozen years.

Fact check: Did Trump have ‘the safest border in the history of our country’?

“We had the safest border in the history of our country,” Trump said.

THE FACTS: This is false and clear exaggeration. In 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic brought down border crossings, there were roughly 860,000 illegal border crossings, far more than in any year during the Obama administration.

Fact check: Are immigrants entering the country taking 'Black jobs' and 'Hispanic jobs'?

Trump claimed immigrants who entered the country illegally are taking "Black jobs" and "Hispanic jobs."

THE FACTS: After Trump made the unsubstantiated claim, "Black jobs" was trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, as users questioned what the former president meant by the comment.

There's no evidence that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from Black Americans, according to NBC News. The Black unemployment rate actually fell to an all-time-low 4.8% in April 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fact check: Did Trump end catch and release?

“We ended ‘catch and release,’” Trump said.

THE FACTS: This is false.

Trump did not end “catch and release,” a term used to describe the practice of releasing migrants into the country with court dates while they await court hearings. The U.S. doesn’t have enough facilities to detain every migrant who crosses the border until they can see judges, no matter who is president, so Trump — like Barack Obama before him and Biden after him — released many migrants back into the U.S.

Fact check: Did the Border Patrol union endorse Biden?

“By the way, the Border Patrol endorsed me, endorsed my position,” Biden said.

THE FACTS: This is false.

The National Border Patrol Council, the labor union for U.S. Border Patrol agents and staff members, has endorsed Trump. 

“The National Border Patrol Council has proudly endorsed Donald J. Trump for President of the United States,” the group’s vice president, Hector Garza, said in a statement shared exclusively with NBC News. 

The union posted on X, “to be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden.”

Biden may have been referring to a Senate immigration bill that he backed, which earned the union’s endorsement.

Contact Us