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President Donald Trump near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border construction, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. (AP) President Donald Trump near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border construction, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. (AP)

President Donald Trump near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border construction, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 27, 2021

No proof for Trump’s claim of surge in trafficking, drugs at border under Biden

If Your Time is short

  • Experts say it takes time after someone enters the U.S. for them to be subjected to sex or labor trafficking, and there aren’t statistics yet for the start of Biden’s presidency.

  • The number of drug seizure events is up 11% in the first three months of 2021.

With border crossings from Mexico rising sharply, fueled by a surge in unaccompanied children, former President Donald Trump painted a picture of doom in an interview with Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity.

Hannity asked about the rising number of child migrants and "Biden’s cages," a reference to overcrowded, soft-sided shelters where children are held temporarily. Trump responded more generally, saying his own policies left things well enough at the border, and all Biden had to do "was leave it alone." (We rated a similar claim Mostly False.)

Then he made a claim we wanted to check. 

"You know, the other thing that people don’t talk about — human trafficking and drugs," Trump said April 19. "That’s doubled, tripled and quadrupled coming in, because that’s pouring in right now."

The claim was contained in an excerpt of Trump’s interview shared on Facebook by his son Don Trump Jr., who has 4.78 million followers on Facebook. 

The younger Trump’s April 21 post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The former president’s office did not reply to our request for information.

We found no evidence to back either part of his claim.

Human trafficking involves compelling a person into any form of labor through the threat of violence, fraud or coercion, and for the purpose of exploitation. Transporting people over a border is not the same as human trafficking.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, said that from what she has observed, law enforcement agencies are not reporting increases in sex or labor trafficking victims and social service programs, are not reporting huge surges since Biden took office. 

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"Perhaps he is talking about smuggling," she said of Trump. "It is much flashier to say human trafficking, but it is incorrect."

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a George Mason University professor whose research expertise includes Mexico-U.S. relations, organized crime, immigration, border security and human trafficking, and Caren Benjamin, a spokesperson for the Polaris Project, which fights sex and labor trafficking, said data to back Trump’s claim do not exist.

"To make claims like this fundamentally misunderstands how human trafficking actually works," Benjamin said. "Trafficking is not something that happens in a single moment, like driving over a border. It is a process, almost like a narrative, that plays out over time. So, the idea that we could — a few months into a new administration — count trafficking cases related to border crossings, is nonsensical."

On drugs, the latest statistics available from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for seizures at the southwest border, posted April 8, show that the total amount of illegal drugs seized, in pounds, was 23% lower in the first three months of 2021 than it was in the first three months of 2020, when Trump was president.


February’s number was higher than a year earlier, by about 12%. 

The number of drug seizure events is up 11% for the first three months of 2021 — not double, triple or quadruple.

Our ruling

Trump said "human trafficking and drugs" at the Mexico border have "doubled, tripled and quadrupled" since Biden became president.

Experts on trafficking said they have not seen such an increase and that there is no data to back Trump’s claim. 

Federal figures show the amount of drugs seized at the southwest border is lower during the first three months of 2021 than in the first quarter of 2020, while the number of drug seizures is up about 11%.

We rate Trump’s statement False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (1:45 of video), April 21, 2021 

PolitiFact, "Katie Pavlich falsely claims Biden administration is ‘engaging in,’ ‘enabling’ human trafficking," April 6, 2021

Email, Caren Benjamin, spokesperson, Polaris Project, which fights sex and labor trafficking, April 26, 2021

Email, David Bier, Cato Institute research fellow on legal immigration, border security, and interior enforcement, April 26, 2021

Interview, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Nathan Peeters, April 27, 2021

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "Drug Seizure Statistics," April 8, 2021

Email, Mary Houtmann, ICE spokesperson, Department of Homeland Security, April 26, 2021

Email, Katherine Pfaff, spokesperson, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, April 26, 2021

Email, Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, policy and government professor at George Mason University, whose research expertise includes Mexico-U.S. relations, organized crime, immigration, border security and human trafficking, April 26, 2021

Email, Beau Kilmer, director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center, April 27, 2021

Congressional Research Service, "Mexican Drug Trafficking and Cartel," April 2, 2021

Congressional Research Service, "Sanctions Programs Targeting Human Traffickers: In Brief," April 22, 2021

Email, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, April 26, 2021

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More by Tom Kertscher

No proof for Trump’s claim of surge in trafficking, drugs at border under Biden

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