Border Patrol encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border reached their highest level in more than two decades in July, giving Oklahoma Republicans ample fodder for criticisms of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
Gov. Kevin Stitt decried an influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl into Oklahoma from Mexico during a tour of the nation’s southern border earlier this month and U.S. Senator James Lankford has taken aim at what he’s called wasteful spending in Biden’s decision to abandon the Trump administration’s border wall project.
The Frontier used state and federal data, information from law enforcement and news reports to fact-check Oklahoma elected officials’ public statements about the U.S.-Mexico Border crisis. We found facts to back up many of their claims.
Claim: A drug kingpin is charged with smuggling 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine into Oklahoma from Mexico.
Source: Gov. Kevin Stitt made this claim during an Oct. 5 appearance on Fox News in advance of his trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’ve indicted a drug kingpin with 2,000 pounds of meth coming in from Mexico,” Stitt said.
Fact check: Mostly True
A federal grand jury has indicted a California man for allegedly smuggling 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine from Mexico to Oklahoma and Missouri.
Federal agents arrested Luis Alfredo Jacobo in Bakersfield, California in September. A 13-count federal indictment accuses Jacobo of orchestrating methamphetamine distribution schemes in Oklahoma and Missouri. Jacobo allegedly sent the Mexican drugs to Oklahoma and Missouri via U.S. Mail shipments and vehicle transports from California
According to the indictment, Jacobo obtained methamphetamine from Mexico via bulk distributors before arranging to send the drugs to Oklahoma and Missouri.
It’s unclear from court documents how Jacobo’s associates allegedly smuggled methamphetamine into the United States, but Border Patrol agents seize most drugs at legal ports of entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Claim: Most of the fentanyl in Oklahoma comes in from Mexico and fentanyl-related deaths in the state have increased by more than 150 percent over last year.
Source: Stitt made this claim in an Oct.6 press release.“In Oklahoma, we have seen an increase in the trafficking of illicit drugs, namely methamphetamine and fentanyl, which are being smuggled across our southern border from Mexico,” Stitt said. “Most methamphetamine available in our state is produced in Mexico and fentanyl-related deaths are up over 150% over the last year.”
Fact check: True
Fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased by nearly 152% from 2019 to 2020, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs Control. There were 54 reported fentanyl-related deaths in 2019 and 136 deaths in 2020, according to preliminary state data.
Fentanyl-related deaths also increased more than other kinds of overdose deaths in 2020.
Most of the illicit fentanyl in Oklahoma is manufactured in China, then smuggled into the country from Mexico, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Claim: The federal government has wasted millions of dollars on unfinished pieces of the Trump administration’s new border wall after President Joe Biden canceled construction.
Fact check: Mostly true
President Joe Biden halted construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall in January and directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to cancel Trump administration construction contracts. The full cost of cancelling the contracts remains unclear.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford based his comments on a report he released in July that claims the federal government is paying about $3 million per day to contractors for the unfinished border wall. The report found that Biden’s efforts to halt construction on Former President Donald Trump’s border wall have cost between $1.8 billion and $2 billion.
The Trump Administration dedicated about $15 billion to border wall construction, but about $10 billion of that money came from diverted military funding and other sources. The Department of Homeland Security is returning the remaining, unobligated funding back to its original sources.
But the chunk of money Congress appropriated is legally required to be spent on border projects, although the Biden administration has asked for Congress to redirect those funds.
Congress appropriated more than $4.4 billion for border wall construction between 2017 and 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service. For now, the Department of Homeland Security plans to use the money for environmental reviews and existing infrastructure projects along the border.
Claim: More than 12,000 Haitian migrants have been released into the United States without being tested or vaccinated for COVID-19.
Source: U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice made this claim in a column dated Oct. 6.
Fact Check: True but misleading.
While it’s true that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol did not test Haitian migrants for COVID-19, most were tested and offered vaccines shortly after release into the country.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General reported in September that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol does not test migrants entering the United States for COVID-19, but rather coordinates with other federal, state and local entities to conduct testing after release.
Border Patrol agents cleared a group of about 15,000 mostly Hatian migrants who had assembled under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas in September.
On Sept. 24, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters at a White House briefing that Haitian migrants in Del Rio had not been tested for COVID. But Mayorkas walked back that statement two days later during an appearance on FOX News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace that people transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for processing are tested, and only migrants who were immediately deported are not tested.
“So we have strict COVID testing protocols that we apply across the board. We test, isolate, and quarantine unaccompanied children,” he said “We work with nonprofit organizations to test families. Those who are in ICE custody are tested, isolated, and quarantine.”
The Border Patrol released between 10,000 and 12,000 of the Del Rio migrants into the United States to wait for immigration court hearings.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement coordinated with local shelters to test migrants for COVID-19. People who tested positive were quarantined for 10 days and those who tested negative were offered vaccines.
True: A claim that is backed up by factual evidence
Mostly True: A claim that is mostly true but also contains some inaccurate details
Mixed: A claim that contains a combination of accurate and inaccurate or unproven information
True but misleading: A claim that is factually true but omits critical details or context
Mostly False: A claim that is mostly false but also contains some accurate details
False: A claim that has no basis in fact
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