In a September 14, 2023, story titled “The immigrant population in the U.S. is climbing again, setting a record last year”, NPR reporter Joel Rose made two provably false claims regarding legal immigration levels under President Trump.
At time stamp 1:50 Rose stated that “…legal immigration slowed way down during the Trump Administration, and then, basically, ground to a standstill during the pandemic.”
In this quote Rose divides Trump’s immigration numbers into the pre-pandemic years (2017-2019) and the pandemic years (2020).
Rose’s first claim — that legal immigration “slowed way down” under Trump — is false. In fact pre-pandemic immigration numbers under Trump increased slightly over President Obama. According to the official DHS annual legal immigration numbers, which are presented in the table below, President Obama allowed an average of 1.063 million immigrants to enter the country legally throughout his eight years in office, while President Trump allowed an average of 1.085 million immigrants to enter the country during the pre-pandemic years of 2017-2019.
Rose’s second claim — that legal immigration “ground to a standstill” during the pandemic — also is false. The official DHS numbers indicate that legal immigration fell from 1,031,765 in 2019, to 707,362 in 2020, which was the first year of the pandemic. This represents a decrease of only 31%.
Several requests we submitted to NPR for a correction went unanswered.
Sources for official DHS legal immigration numbers: