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FACT CHECK: Heller Parrots Trump Rhetoric, Uses False Statistics to Demonize Immigrants

During an interview on conservative talk radio Thursday morning, Senator Dean Heller aggressively embraced President Trump’s divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric — even directly parroting false numbers Trump has used.

TRANSCRIPT (LISTEN HERE)

Wall: And beyond the DREAMers, the so called 11 million people here illegally, what do we do with them?

Heller: First of all it’s very difficult but I’ll tell you what the White House is going to do. And I agree with what the White House is going to do. And they are going to go after the criminal element. And I do believe that they need to concentrate on that. There’s 1 to 2 million of them. If they spend all of their time over the next eight years trying to deal with the criminal element when it comes to illegal immigration I think that they can solve that problem. But 11 million is a huge number but if you break it down to the criminal element and go after the 2 to 3 million there. I do believe that we can improve the quality of life for all Americans.

Wall: Do you give them a path to citizenship as well?

Heller: The criminal element? No, I think we should send them back to Mexico or whatever country they came from.

Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Sarah Abel released the following statement on Heller’s embrace of Trump’s false and offensive immigration rhetoric:

“Senator Heller continues to mimic more and more of Trump’s divisive rhetoric as he desperately tries to beat back a far-right challenger with a history of winning Republican primaries. Senator Heller’s decision to use numbers that have already been proven false is just another calculated move to pander to Trump and the GOP’s most anti-immigrant elements. Nevada was built on the backs of immigrant families and Senator Heller’s decision to broadly demonize immigrants as criminals won’t go unanswered in 2018.”

BACKGROUND

DEAN HELLER SAID THAT “2-3 MILLION” UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS SHOULD BE SENT “BACK TO MEXICO”

When Asked What Should Be Done With The 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants In America, Heller Said That The “2 To 3 Million” Criminal Element Should Be Sent “Back To Mexico Or Whatever Country They Came From.” “Wall: and beyond the dreamers. The so called 11 million people here illegally what do we do with them? Heller: First of all it’s very difficult but I’ll tell you what the white house is going to do. And I agree with what the White House is going to do. and they are going to go after the criminal element. And I do believe that they need to concentrate on that. There’s 1 to 2 million of them. If they spend all of their time over the next 8 years trying to deal with the criminal element when it comes to illegal immigration I think that they can solve that problem.  But 11 million is a huge number but if you break it down to the criminal element and go after the 2 to 3 million there. I do believe that we can improve the quality of life for all Americeans. Wall: do you give them a path to citizenship as well?  Heller: The criminal element. No I think we should send them back to Mexico or whatever country they came from.” [Dean Heller, Kevin Wall Radio, 12/21/17] (AUDIO)

WHICH PARROTS A DONALD TRUMP QUOTE FROM NOVEMBER 2016

Trump: “What We Are Going To Do Is Get The People That Are Criminal And Have Criminal Records, Gang Members, Drug Dealers, We Have A Lot Of These People, Probably 2 Million, It Could Be Even 3 Million, We Are Getting Them Out Of Our Country Or We’re Going To Incarcerate….They’re Here Illegally.” “‘What about the pledge to deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants?,’ asked CBS’ Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes.  ‘What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we’re going to incarcerate,’ Trump responded. ‘But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.’”  [Politifact, 11/15/16]

…A QUOTE POLITIFACT CALLED “HALF TRUE” BECAUSE THERE ARE NOT 3 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WITH CRIMINAL RECORDS IN AMERICA

The Dept. Of Homeland Security Reported That Between 2011 And 2013, Or Around Five Years Ago, 1.9 Million Legal And Illegal Immigrants Were “Removable Criminal Aliens.” “Trump was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report covering fiscal years 2011-13. That report said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 1.9 million ‘removable criminal aliens’ in the United States at the time — not 3 million.  And the report says the 1.9 million total includes immigrants who are here both legally and illegally.” [Politifact, 11/15/16]

Politifact Determined Trump’s Use Of “Criminal Alien” Was Misleading, Saying The Term Was Generally Used By Law Enforcement To Identify Legal or Illegal Noncitizen Residents Who Had Been Convicted Of A Crime. Politifact determined President Trump’s use of the term ‘criminal alien’ was misleading: “The term ‘criminal aliens’ is generally used by law enforcement to identify ‘noncitizens who are residing in the United States legally or illegally and are convicted of a crime. It is misleading to say the 1.9 million outlined in the DHS report are all here illegally — though they may be ‘removable.’ An individual living in the United States legally may be subject to deportation under certain circumstances, including the conviction of crimes such as cocaine possession.’” [Politifact, 11/15/16]

The Migration Policy Institute Estimated That 820,000 Of The 1.9 Million Noncitizens Convicted Of Crimes Were Undocumented Immigrants, Well Under Trump’s Proclaimed “3 Million.” “Trump’s claim that ‘it could be even 3 million’ criminal immigrants in the country illegally also surpasses calculations from a group estimating it could be less than 1 million.  The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank analyzing the movement of people and policies that affect them, in July 2015 estimated that 43 percent, or 820,000, of the 1.9 million noncitizens convicted of crimes were unauthorized immigrants. The institute analyzed estimates of the unauthorized population and the number of noncitizens lawfully in the country and estimated that both groups commit crimes at similar rates.

Politifact Rated The Statement “Half True” For Being In The Ballpark But Missing Important Details. “Trump said there are ‘probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million’ criminal immigrants in the country illegally.  Trump’s slightly hedged numbers stem from a federal report that said there are about 1.9 million ‘removable criminal aliens,’ but that includes people here legally and illegally. Trump’s claim that it could even be 3 million is based on an assumption.  He’s in the ballpark but misses important details. We rate Trump’s statement Half True.” [Politifact, 11/15/16]

BUT THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME SENATOR HELLER HAS MADE EXTREME COMMENTS ABOUT UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

2006: Heller Said Bush Wasn’t Tough Enough On Immigration And That Being In The Country Illegally “Ought To Be A Felony.” In October 2006, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on Bush’s trip to Reno for a Dean Heller fundraiser. “Republican candidate Den Heller, his campaign war chest flushed with $325,000 in new money gathered from a quick Reno visit by President George Bush, said he wants tougher immigration policies than what the president has proposed. ‘I think we need a little tougher policy on immigration,’ Heller said. ‘I think that if you are in this country illegally, it ought to be a felony. I don’t believe that is the position the president has taken.’” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/3/06]

2007: Heller: “I Don’t Support Benefits For Illegals. I Don’t Support The Dream Act. I Don’t Support Anchor Babies.” In October 2007, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported, “Heller, who applauded the raids, spoke Saturday of his opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, saying no new laws are needed. ‘I don’t support amnesty. I don’t support benefits for illegals. I don’t support the Dream Act. I don’t support anchor babies.’” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/14/07]