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PolitiFact FL: Fact checking DeSantis’ misleading claim that 8M migrant arrived under Biden

Migrants are taken into custody by officials at the Texas-Mexico border, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson is leading about 60 fellow Republicans in Congress on a visit to the Mexican border. Their trip comes as they are demanding hard-line immigration policies in exchange for backing President Joe Biden's emergency wartime funding request for Ukraine.
Eric Gay
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AP
Migrants are taken into custody by officials at the Texas-Mexico border, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas. U.S.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

PolitiFactFL-Debate-DeSantis-1-10-2024

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked President Joe Biden’s immigration record during CNN’s Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

"Biden’s let in 8 million people just in four years. They all have to go back," DeSantis said Jan. 10.

But this talking point relies on a misleading read of immigration data. Immigrant encounters are different from admissions. PolitiFact fact-checked a similar claim in September and rated it Mostly False.

Nationwide data up to November 2023 shows that immigration officials have encountered migrants 8.1 million times under Biden (who has been in office almost three years).

But that doesn’t mean 8.1 million people are now living in the United States. Immigration data represents events, not people. If one person tries to enter the country three different times and is stopped each time by border officials, for example, that equals three encounters, even if it’s the same person encountered.

READ MORE: PolitiFact FL: What key facts about immigration data tells us about border policies

The number of people let into the country is about one-quarter of what DeSantis said. There have been about 2.3 million people released into the U.S. under Biden’s administration, Department of Homeland Security data shows. Also, 356,000 children who crossed the border alone were let in and placed in government custody.

Immigration officials estimate how many people evade detection, but this data takes years to be publicly released. The latest data available is for fiscal year 2021, which includes about four months of the Trump administration. It says that about 391,000 people got away from border authorities that year.

Data shows that not everyone encountered by border officials was allowed to stay in the country. DHS estimates there have been more than 3.6 million expulsions, removals and returns from February 2021, Biden’s first month in office, to September 2023, the latest available data.

Our ruling
DeSantis said, "Biden’s let in 8 million people just in four years."

Immigration officials have encountered migrants 8.1 million times nationwide, but that does not mean they’re all in the U.S. Encounters represent events, not individual people, and millions of encounters result in people being deported from the country.

DeSantis’ statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources