Fact Check: Dan Patrick at the Republican Convention

With help from the Washington Post’s fact-checking platform Truth Teller, we’re analyzing the speeches that Texas’ candidates for governor and lieutenant governor gave at their respective state political party conventions.

Here, we focus on some of Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick’s remarks at his state party convention in June. 

While addressing thousands of delegates in Fort Worth, the GOP’s lieutenant governor nominee largely focused on border security and immigration. Watch below as Truth Teller analyzes Patrick’s speech and incorporates fact checks aggregated by the Tribune and the Post. Patrick did not respond to multiple requests to clarify the claims he made during the speech. 

Hispanic sentiment on border security

 

“[Hispanics] are with us on securing the border.” —  IT’S COMPLICATED

A June 2013 survey conducted by GOP pollster John McLaughlin found that a majority of Hispanics support strengthening border enforcement.

The survey found that 57 percent of Hispanics support increased enforcement on the border to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country illegally. A small majority of Hispanic adults — 51 percent — support enforcing the border with additional fencing, police, surveillance drones and other measures.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Presente.org, which supports comprehensive immigration reform, and political opinion researchers at Latino Decisions produced different results.

When it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, their June 2013 poll found that Latino voters “firmly oppose” excessive enforcement, border security and punitive measures. A large majority agreed that the federal government should focus on border security while creating a pathway to citizenship. Additionally, about 73 percent of those polled said federal immigration officials should not increase the number of immigrants they send to jail or detention centers. 

Gang members in Texas 

“We have 100,000 gang members here in the state of Texas we believe who are here illegally.” — FALSE

Patrick seems to be referencing a Texas Gang Threat Assessment released by the Texas Department of Public Safety in April 2014, which provides detailed information on the types of gangs that reside in the state.

 

While the report found that the total number of gang members in Texas “may exceed” 100,000, it did not specify whether the individuals entered the country illegally.

The report specifies that the Partido Revolucionario Mexicano gang, which is listed in the second tier of “significant gangs” in the state, is largely made up of Mexican nationals who are mostly “illegal aliens.” But the report does not specify how many individuals who entered the country illegally are part of the gang.

Undocumented inmates

“In four years, we had 143,000 hardened criminals we arrested and put in our jails that came here illegally.” — FALSE

Patrick’s claim is likely based on a 2013 public safety threat overview by the Texas Department of Public Safety that includes concerns about "criminal aliens," who "may not be affiliated with the cartels and gangs but act alone to commit crime in Texas."

The report identified a total of 141,982 "unique criminal alien defendants" who were booked into Texas county jails from October 2008 to December 2012. But the definition of "alien" in the report includes all individuals who are not U.S. citizens or residents, regardless of whether they entered the country legally or illegally.

Releases of convicted "criminal aliens"

“And what did Obama do? He released 36,000 of them back into our communities, including 193 murderers across the country — 79 percent went back into San Antonio.” — IT’S COMPLICATED

Patrick’s claim seems to stem from two reports from the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank. The reports prove that parts of his claim are correct, while others are not.

Citing a document prepared by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the center reported in May that ICE officials released 36,007 convicted “criminal aliens” in 2013. These individuals were released while “awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings” or afterward, according to the report. Of the 36,007 individuals, 193 had homicide convictions.

As for the “79 percent” Patrick said were released in San Antonio, that part of the claim is false. What Patrick said could indicate that 79 percent of the 193 murderers were released into San Antonio or that 79 percent of the 36,000 released went back to San Antonio.

The former would be false because the report provides no specifics on the location of the 193 murderers. If he meant the latter, it gets a bit murky.

The first portion of Patrick’s claim refers to the May report about the 36,007 releases. Those cases were different from the ones cited in a previous report that said 67,879 immigrants were released after being “encountered” by ICE officials — often in jails. Those individuals were released instead of being processed for immigration removal charges. The earlier report found that 79 percent of “criminal aliens” encountered at the San Antonio ICE field office — 28,680 out of 36,228 — were released.

In his remarks, Patrick seems to mix up figures from the May report from the Center for Immigration Studies with numbers from an earlier report. The Patrick campaign did not respond to several requests for clarification about this claim.

Number of unaccompanied minors

“Right now, we have a crisis of nearly 70,000 unaccompanied alien … children who have come into Texas in the last several months.” — FALSE

There has been a dramatic surge in unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally in recent months, but Patrick’s claim here is much larger than estimates released by federal officials.

Government officials estimated that as many as 70,000 unaccompanied children will cross the border into the U.S. by the end of 2014 — not that 70,000 children have already crossed into Texas. More recently, officials increased that estimate to 90,000 children.

The estimates for Texas specifically are much smaller. During a recent U.S. House Homeland Security Committee field hearing, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors had crossed the border since October, with nearly two-thirds crossing in the Rio Grande Valley. U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector have reported more than 37,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors since October.

No publicly available estimates have indicated that 70,000 unaccompanied minors entered the country through Texas in recent months.