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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact Check: Rep. Richard Hudson's Claim On Illegal Border Crossings 'Half True'

Richard Hudson Fox News
Fox News

This week, we're looking at claims about an increase in illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border made by North Carolina Republican Congressman Richard Hudson of the 8th District. On Fox News earlier this month, he said this:

"And the reason we're having this Biden border surge is because he's reversed these policies, as you say," Hudson said. "He stopped building the wall. He put a halt on deportations and he brought back catch and release."

Hudson later tweeted, "Illegal border crossings are up 173% from one year ago and 28% since January." Joining us to assess all of this is WRAL's Paul Specht.

Marshall Terry: So Paul, Hudson's claim has two parts. Let's start with the numbers. Is he correct when he said illegal border crossings are up 173% from a year ago and 28% since January?

Paul Specht: In short, yes. And he got that 173 number by going to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. We have a link to this in our fact check. If you click that page, what will open up is a chart and it shows crossings by month and who these immigrants encountered. And there are two different types of encounters that happen. There are those with Border Patrol and those that are through official field offices, or ports of entry. Those are legal ports of entry.

If you look at all of that together, crossings are up precisely 173%. Now, I'm going to get into the weeds here for a second. Experts we spoke to said if you want to just look at illegal crossings and not legal crossings, just look at encounters with Border Patrol specifically because the offices, the field offices, are legal ports of entry. People are supposed to go there to make their cases to come into this country.

So if we just look at encounters with Border Patrol, the numbers are actually up even more than 173%. They're up around 220% from last February. Now, look, like I said, Hudson's number is a little off in that regard, but it doesn't undermine his point. It actually reinforces it about how much illegal crossings are up.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
A comparison of all border crossings at the Southwest border over the last four years.

Terry: Let's now look at the other part of the claim where Hudson says the reason for the increase is because President Biden has reversed policies put in place by former President Trump. Hudson said those include a stop on building a border wall, a halt on deportations and what he refers to as "catch and release." Is he right on those three things?

Specht: He's mostly missing the mark here — at least according to the experts we spoke with. First, the wall: No. Experts say the wall had nothing to do with this increase in crossings at the border. It is true that Biden stopped new construction on the border wall, but even if he had continued it, two months of construction is not going to make much of a difference. So you're not going to plug a hole somewhere that a bunch of people are getting through. That's that's just not how it works.

Next, he says Biden stopped deportations — and that's a big overstatement. First of all, deportations have not stopped. Anyone can Google and see people are still being deported. Now, is it to the extent that the Trump administration did? No, it's not. The biggest change that's happened is that President Biden has started letting more people stay as they hear their asylum cases in court. But as far as deportations go, Biden has not blocked them. In fact, there's still a federal law in place that allows border officials to turn people away because we're in a public health emergency.

And lastly, he says Biden instituted "catch and release." That's sort of a vague term, but it is true that Biden is allowing some people to stay while they await their asylum cases. Now, there's a lot of reading that can be done on catch and release and a lot of debate over whether it's possible to apprehend and keep in custody every single person that crosses the border. For a long time, people in federal government said, no, that's just not logistically feasible. The Trump administration tried to do as much as they could.

But the experts we spoke to said that catch and release policy is not the main reason that people are coming from other countries. It's a combination of things. Overall, we can look back at previous years and see that numbers tend to rise as the weather starts to warm up a little bit. People don't want to come when it's too freezing cold. They also don't want to wait until it's burning hot. We're not pinning this increase in numbers on one thing, or even two things. Experts say it's more complicated than that. And there are some trends here that match previous years.

Terry: Did Hudson cite any specific sources for the three reasons that he gave?

Specht: He didn't cite sources for, say, the wall or catch and release specifically, even though he mentioned those in his tweet. When we asked him about them, he sent us links to news stories and highlighted the fact that there are many people who are coming to the border and saying, "We expect Joe Biden to treat us better." And the experts I spoke with said they're not surprised by that. And that might be true. But that doesn't mean that the specific reasons Hudson gave in his tweet are the reasons they're coming.

Terry: As far as the experts that you reached out to, do you consider their analysis, opinion or fact?

Specht: Of course, this is all opinion to some degree. But these experts, especially the ones I've spoken with, PolitiFact has cited multiple times over the years. But no, it's their opinion. They look at previous years. They see when these numbers went up. And then they analyze well, what's happening here?

There are a lot of things to take into consideration. And one expert we spoke with pointed out that this year's numbers are still not as high as they were in 2019.

Terry: How did you rate this claim by Richard Hudson?

Specht: This is a two-part claim. In the first part, he said that illegal border crossings are up 173%. We found that they're up at least that much from a year ago, including they are up 28% since January.

But then on his reasoning — the wall, catch and release, halting deportations — he misrepresented the facts there a little bit and then experts said that's an overgeneralization.

So on balance, here, we gave him a "half true."

Terry: All right, Paul, thank you.

Specht: Thank you.

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