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In his speech accepting the Republican Party nomination for president, Donald Trump laid out his assessment of the nation and said it was time to go back to safety, prosperity and peace.
"We will be a country of generosity and warmth," Trump said. "But we will also be a country of law and order."
That includes getting tough on immigration policy.
"The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015," Trump said.
We were curious to know if so far this year, the number of immigrant families who have crossed the border has surpassed all of 2015.
Definition of family
Immigration experts pointed us to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics on monthly and fiscal-year apprehensions of families along the Southwest border. CBP uses apprehensions as an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally.
Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, says the definition of a family unit is quite loose, but basically involves at least one child who is accompanied by at least one adult who is their parent or legal guardian.
Turning to the data
There are two ways to interpret the data — by calendar year (January 1 to December 31) and by fiscal year (October 1 to September 30).
And that makes all the difference.
By calendar year -- the way most people would interpret Trump’s comment -- he’s wrong. But by fiscal year, he’s right.
CBP’s has apprehended 29,682 family members from January to June 2016, records show. In all of 2015, CBP apprehended more family members, 53,840.
If he’s reading by fiscal year, as CBP reports it, then the numbers support his statement.
In fiscal year 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014-Sept. 30, 2015), there were 39,838 apprehensions.
So far from Oct. 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, there have been a total of 51,152 apprehensions.
Fiscal year 2016 includes three months -- October to December 2015 -- when there was a notable spike in apprehensions.
From October to December 2015, there were 21,470 apprehensions — 2.8 times higher than the same period in 2014 and 4.1 times higher than combined average for same months over the last four years (2012–15).
What caused the numbers to spike?
Experts aren’t sure. Federal officials generally have discussed challenges created by Central American families trying to enter the United States.
"We are cognizant that conditions in Central America push many to flee the region in search of a better life in the United States, and recognize the need to provide a safe alternative path to our country, and that many from the region should be regarded as refugees," Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson said in a statement accompanying the latest data.
Nestor Rodriguez, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has been researching immigrant communities for decades, said these numbers mainly represent young mothers with small children from Central America "fleeing poverty and lethal danger from gangs in their countries," many who turn themselves into Border Patrol to seek asylum.
Trump said, "The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015."
Many would understand it as calendar year and by this metric, Trump is wrong. However, Customs and Border Protection reports apprehension data by fiscal year. And by that measure, he has a point. On balance, we rate this claim Half True.
Speech, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, July 21, 2016
Politico, Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript, July 21, 2016
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol Southwest Family Unit Subject and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions Fiscal Year 2016, accessed July 21, 2016
Email interview, Nestor Rodriguez, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, July 21, 2016
Email interview, Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director, Migration Policy Institute, July 21, 2016
Email interview, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, July 21, 2016
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