President Trump, troops and the migrant caravan - What's Your Point?

- This week President Trump threatened an executive order against birthright citizenship and sent troops to the border, motivated by the migrant caravan moving northward through Mexico.

The What's Your Point panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor Breitbart Texas,  Marc Campos – political analyst,  Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor discuss the President's actions and the politics before the general election.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump spread distorted theories and numbers on immigration in the campaign's final days while claiming economic gains for minorities that have not been achieved.

A look at 11th hour rhetoric before the elections Tuesday and the reality:

MEDIAN INCOME

TRUMP, on attracting the nonwhite vote from Democrats: "We have the best unemployment numbers, the best median income numbers for all of these groups. We have the best numbers we've ever had. ...They should be worried about the African-Americans, because they're going to lose them." - Fox interview Monday.

THE FACTS: He did not achieve the best median income numbers for all the nonwhite groups. Both African-Americans and Asian-Americans had higher income prior to the Trump administration.

The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau. That's below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016, President Barack Obama's last year in office.

Many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, in Obama's first term, as the primary explanation for recent hiring and income gains. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening even as unemployment rates have come down.

As to Asian-Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.

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ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

TRUMP, on the practice of allowing immigrants caught crossing the border illegally to stay in U.S. communities as they await immigration hearings: "We're not doing releases. What's been happening over years is they would come in, release them, and they would never show up for their trial. And we now have 25 or 30 million people in this country illegally, because of what's been happening over many years." - remarks Wednesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: It's nowhere close to 25 million to 30 million, nor has the number increased much in recent years.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center estimates there were 11.3 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally in 2016, the most recent data available. That number is basically unchanged from 2009. Advocacy groups on both sides of the immigration issue have similar estimates.

The number of such immigrants had reached a height of 12.2 million in 2007, representing about 4 percent of the U.S. population, before declining due in part to a weakening U.S. economy.

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TRUMP, on tweeting a video blaming Democrats allowing a man to enter the U.S. who killed two police officers: "All I'm doing is just telling the truth." - speaking to reporters Friday.

THE FACTS: The video he spread around does not tell the truth. It says Democrats let Luis Bracamontes into the country and "let him stay."

Bracamontes entered the U.S. illegally, in 1996, during the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, but he was also deported by that administration the next year after being caught buying crack cocaine and serving his sentence. He returned repeatedly. By the time he was sentenced to death in California for the 2014 killings of the police officers, he had been deported four times, according to Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.

No evidence of leniency by Democrats has emerged in the episode. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have deported hundreds of thousands of people a year and no administration, Trump's included, has caught everyone trying to enter illegally.

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TRUMP on what U.S. troops should do if encountering migrants who are trying to get to the border from Mexico: "I didn't say shoot, I didn't say shoot." - remarks to reporters Friday.

THE FACTS: A day earlier, he said of the migrants: "They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them, consider it a rifle."

The procession has been largely peaceful. Some migrants in one caravan clashed with Mexican police at the Mexico-Guatemala border, hurling stones.

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TRUMP: "President Obama separated the children from parents and nobody complained. When we continued the exact same law, the country went crazy." - immigration speech Thursday.

THE FACTS: Actually, Obama did not do the same thing as a matter of policy.

While it's true the underlying laws were the same, the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted. That policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children. Trump's zero tolerance policy remains in effect, but he signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.

Jeh Johnson, Obama's Homeland Security secretary, recently told NPR there may have been unusual or emergency circumstances when children were taken from parents, but there was no such policy.

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TRUMP: "At this very moment, large well-organized caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. ...These are tough people in many cases; a lot of young men, strong men and a lot of men that maybe we don't want in our country. ...This isn't an innocent group of people. It's a large number of people that are tough. They have injured, they have attacked." - immigration speech Thursday.

THE FACTS: He's given no evidence that people in the caravans are, by and large, dangerous, hardened criminals - after acknowledging at one point that there is no such proof.

The migrants in the caravans are mostly from Honduras, where it started, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala. Overall, they are poor, carrying the belongings that fit into a knapsack and fleeing gang violence or poverty.

It might be true there are some criminals mixed in with the throngs, given the sheer number of migrants. Trump did not substantiate his claim that members of the MS-13 gang, in particular, are among them. The Homeland Security Department issued a sheet stating that "over 270 individuals along the caravan route have criminal histories, including known gang membership." But it did not specify how it had arrived at that number.

Some migrants in one of the caravans clashed with Mexican police at the Mexico-Guatemala border, hurling stones and other objects as they tried to cross the international bridge. One migrant died; it's not clear how it happened. Caravan leaders said they had expelled a number of troublemakers from the procession, exhibiting some self-policing. Ultimately, most entered Guatemala - and later, Mexico - by illegally bypassing immigration checkpoints.

The caravan otherwise has been overwhelmingly peaceful, receiving applause and donated food from residents of the towns they pass. Mexican police have not tried again to stop them.

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BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP

TRUMP: "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't. ... Well, you can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order." - interview published Tuesday with "Axios on HBO."

THE FACTS: Scholars widely pan the idea that Trump could unilaterally change the rules on who is a citizen. It's highly questionable whether an act of Congress could do it, either, though it is conceivable that legislators could change the rules regarding children born in the U.S. of parents who are in the country illegally.

Peter Schuck is perhaps the most prominent advocate of the idea that birthright citizenship is not conveyed by the Constitution to children of parents who are living illegally in the U.S. Even he says "Trump clearly cannot act by" executive order.

"I feel confident that no competent lawyer would advise him otherwise," he said by email Tuesday. "This is just pre-election politics and misrepresentation and should be sharply criticized as such."

Schuck, of Yale, and colleague Rogers Smith of the University of Pennsylvania have argued since the mid-1980s that Congress can set the rules for providing citizenship to U.S.-born children of parents who came illegally.

But most scholars on the left and right share the view that it would take a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are in the country illegally.

James Ho, a conservative Trump-appointed federal appeals court judge, wrote in the Green Bag legal journal in 2006 that birthright citizenship "is protected no less for children of undocumented persons than for descendants of Mayflower passengers."

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell university immigration expert, said the case against Trump's authority is "not open and shut, but the better view is it would require a constitutional amendment."

The Constitution's citizenship clause was part of the post-Civil War amendments that enshrined the rights of African-Americans. The citizenship clause, in particular, was intended to overturn the Supreme Court's notorious Dred Scott decision of 1857 that held African-Americans were not citizens.

The Supreme Court has never ruled squarely about the clause's application to children of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Trump did not make a distinction between legal and illegal status in his remarks. An 1898 Supreme Court decision held that the U.S.-born son of legal Chinese immigrants was a citizen under the 14th Amendment; a footnote in a 1982 decision suggests there should be no difference for children of foreign-born parents whether they are in the U.S. legally or illegally.

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TRUMP: "We're the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end." - interview with "Axios on HBO."

THE FACTS: That's wrong.

The U.S. is among about 30 countries where birthright citizenship - the principle of jus soli or "right of the soil" - is applied, according to the World Atlas and other sources. Most are in the Americas. Canada and Mexico are among them. Most other countries confer citizenship based on that of at least one parent - jus sanguinis, or "right of blood" - or have a modified form of birthright citizenship that may restrict automatic citizenship to children of parents who are on their territory legally.

More broadly, Trump's view that U.S.-born children of foreigners live a lifetime of taking "all those benefits" ignores the taxes they pay, the work they do and their other contributions to society.

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2016 ELECTION

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House press secretary: Trump "got elected by an overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans who came out and supported him and wanted to see his policies enacted." - press briefing Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump did not earn a majority of votes in the 2016 election. He did win the Electoral College, allowing him to capture the presidency.

Trump won nearly 63 million votes compared with more than 65 million for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who racked up lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by The Associated Press. But she lost the presidency due to Trump's winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

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FLORIDA GOVERNOR'S RACE

TRUMP, on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum: "His city, Tallahassee, is known as the most corrupt in Florida and one of the most corrupt in the nation." - Fox interview Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump is making an unsubstantiated assertion. Republicans including Gillum's opponent, Ron DeSantis, have made crime and corruption a talking point in the governor's race to knock down the Tallahassee mayor's political momentum, saying it's a crime-ridden city. But Tallahassee is not even in the top 25 when it comes to city per-capita crime rates in Florida. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that Tallahassee had 5,765 crimes per 100,000 people in 2017. By comparison, the Florida city with the highest rate, Medley, had 28,004 crimes per 100,000 people.

Trump, who stressed the principle of innocent until proven guilty when allegations shadowed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, has also pointed to an ongoing investigation by the state's ethics commission into whether Gillum accepted gifts from lobbyists after a Tallahassee businessman and persistent critic of Gillum filed a complaint. Gillum has denied any wrongdoing in that case, or that he is a target in a separate ongoing FBI investigation into the city's government.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump has been acting like a candidate on the ballot this week, staging daily double-header rallies and blasting out ads for Republicans up for election on Tuesday. Given the stakes for his presidency, he might as well be.

A knot of investigations. Partisan gridlock. A warning shot for his re-election bid. Trump faces potentially debilitating fallout should Republicans lose control of one or both chambers in Congress, ending two years of GOP hegemony in Washington. A White House that has struggled to stay on course under favorable circumstances would be tested in dramatic ways. A president who often battles his own party, would face a far less forgiving opposition.

On the flip side, if Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, that's not only a victory for the GOP, but a validation of Trump's brand of politics and his unconventional presidency. That result, considered less likely even within the White House, would embolden the president as he launches his own re-election bid.

White House aides insist the president doesn't spend much time contemplating defeat, but he has begun to try to calibrate expectations. He has focused on the competitive Senate races the final days of his scorched-earth campaign blitz, and has distanced himself from blame should Republicans lose the House. If that happens, he intends to claim victory, arguing his efforts on the campaign trail narrowed GOP losses and helped them hold the Senate, according to a person familiar with Trump's thinking who asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss White House conversations by name.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been tested out other explanations - pointing to historical headwinds for the party of an incumbent president and complaining about a rash of GOP retirements this year. He told the AP last month that he won't bear any responsibility should Democrats take over.

At a rally in West Virginia Friday a defiant Trump brushed off the prospect of a Democratic House takeover. "It could happen," he said, adding "don't worry about it. I'll just figure it out."

Meanwhile his staff has begun preparations to deal with a flood of subpoenas that could arrive next year from Democrat-controlled committees and the White House counsel's office has been trying to attract seasoned lawyers to field oversight inquiries.

Should they take the House, Democrats are already plotting to reopen the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Other committees are plotting aggressive oversight of Trump's administration and his web of business interests. Some Democrats are looking at using the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain copies of the president's tax returns after he broke with decades of tradition and withheld them from public scrutiny during his campaign for the White House.

A slim Republican majority in the House would also present challenges, likely inflaming simmering intraparty disputes. First among them would be a potentially bitter leadership fight in the House to replace retiring Speaker Paul Ryan. But a narrowed majority would also exacerbate divisions over policy - and continued unified control could leave the GOP facing the blame for gridlock.

"Clearly there's an awful lot on the line in terms of the legislative agenda," said Republican consultant Josh Holmes. "The prospect of a Democratic controlled House or Senate puts a serious wrinkle in getting anything through Congress."

Some in the White House think losing to Democrats might actually be preferable. They view Democrats eagerness to investigate the president as a blessing in disguise in the run-up to 2020. They view House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a potent foil for Trump, and believe they can tag the party responsibility for Washington dysfunction.

Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush's press secretary, said Democratic control of the House "has both peril and promise for the president."

"The peril is subpoenas, investigations, legal bills and headaches," he said. "The promise is Trump will have an easy foil to run against: Pelosi and Democratic leadership."

White House aides have discussed floating popular legislative issues, such as infrastructure, to tempt Democrats and test the unity of the Democratic opposition.

While keeping the House remained an uphill battle for the GOP, in the closing days of the campaign, Trump and Republicans have tried to sell voters on the possibilities of another two years of GOP control. They promised hardline immigration policies and more tax cuts, arguing that Democrats would erase two years of progress.

In the closing weeks of the midterms, Trump has unleashed a no-holds-barred effort to boost Republicans as he dipped into the same undercurrents of unease that defined his 2016 campaign. From stoking fears about illegal immigration to warning of economic collapse if Democrats are victorious.

But a House loss will prompt GOP hand-wringing about the divides in the party and the struggles for moderate Republicans to run in the Trump, as well as raise questions about whether the Democratic gains point to a path for presidential hopefuls in 2020.

Democratic consultant Jim Manley said Tuesday may reveal if Democrats are having any success recapturing white working class voters in the Midwest who backed Trump in 2016.

"Trump is helping. He's becoming more and more radioactive," Manley said. "There's a chance to try and win them back over."

But while the results may reveal weaknesses in the Republican coalition, midterm elections are very different than presidential years. Republicans were quick to point out that the party in power typically suffers defeats in midterms. Former President Barack Obama was in his words "shellacked" in 2010 and went on to win re-election in 2012.

Said Fleischer: "In the aftermath people with exaggerate its meaning and in 2 years' time everything will have changed."

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