Mostly True
"There are at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States, including large numbers of violent criminals."  

Donald Trump on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 in a campaign speech in Phoenix

Mostly True: Donald Trump says 23 countries refuse to take back their natives from America

Trump's first general election ad focused on immigration and the difference between his proposals and Clinton's.

In his immigration speech in Phoenix, Donald Trump said he’d buck a trend of countries refusing to allow people deported from America to return to their native homes.

"There are at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States," Trump said, "including large numbers of violent criminals. They won’t take them back. So we say, ‘Okay, we'll keep them.’

"Not going to happen with me, not going to happen with me."

We decided to check to see if Trump was correct about the number of countries unwilling "to take their people back," and whether they include "large numbers of violent criminals."

23 countries

The figure Trump cites comes directly from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement document dated July 14, 2016.

The document, which outlines a speech from Daniel Ragsdale, the deputy director of ICE, says that the process for removing those ordered to leave the United States is affected by the range of cooperation offered by foreign nations.

As of May 2, 2016, ICE documented 23 countries that are considered "recalcitrant" in taking back their citizens. The list includes Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

This classification was determined by a country’s cooperativeness with the deportation process, which included factors like refusing to grant flights back into the country, the country's political environment and the timeliness of granting travel documents.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote a letter to Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, that also cited the 23-county figure. "Lives are being lost, the public’s safety is at risk, and Americans families are suffering," Grassley wrote. "It cannot continue."

Both Grassley’s letter and Ragsdale’s comments say the problem has been exacerbated by a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Zadvydas vs. Davis, the Supreme Court ruled that the United States can hold convicted criminals only for 180 days if a country refuses to take them back.

Grassley said in the fiscal year 2015, 2,166 individuals were released after being held for more than 180 days.

Based on the Immigration and Nationality Act, the secretary of state is required to stop giving visas to immigrants or nonimmigrants after being notified the country is hindering the accepting of one of its citizens.

Yet according to Grassley and the New York Times, that’s only happened once -- in 2001 against the nation of Guyana.

Violent offenders

So Trump’s number is well sourced. But what about his claim that these people include "large numbers of violent criminals"?

That’s harder to verify with concrete data.

According to ICE statistics, 19,723 people living in the United States were convicted of a combined 64,197 crimes in 2015. The data notes that the number of convictions is higher than the number of illegal immigrants because one illegal immigrant may have more than one conviction.

The top three types of convictions for people living here illegally are traffic or drug-related offenses. Driving under the influence, traffic offenses, and the use, sale or possession of illegal drugs account for almost half, 30,104, of all convictions.

Violent offenses make up a smaller percentage of all convictions, but still, add up. There were 1,728 assault convictions, 1,347 domestic violence and 101 homicide convictions, among people living here illegally, according to ICE.

There is no crime data specifically on people who were to be released back to their country.

Our ruling

Trump said "at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States, including large numbers of violent criminals. They won’t take them back."

Trump’s figure comes from the federal department in charge of immigration and is accurate. But the second half of his statement about "large numbers of violent criminals" is harder to verify. Out of all convictions for anyone known to be in the United States illegally in 2015, 101 were for homicide while more than 30,000 were for traffic-related or drug-related offenses.

We rate Trump’s claim Mostly True.