The White House has released another ‘alternative fact’ about the impact of the travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries. On January 29 Trump tweeted that in a day “only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning.” The following day White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the press, “Remember we’re talking about a universe of 109 people. There were 325,000 people that came into this country over a 24 hour period from another country. 109 of them were stopped for additional screening.”
The Chicago Tribune has given a scathing analysis showing how misleading these ‘statistics are’. First, the Tribune points out that how many people travel to America from other countries in a single day is totally irrelevant. Most of the world is not covered by the travel ban, so people from those regions should not be included in the impact that the travel ban is having. Apparently, Trump has tricked Sean Spicer into thinking it is relevant to announce that all people from places not affected by the travel ban were not affected by the travel ban.
The 109 people who happened to be traveling when the ban was signed into effect and were thus detained upon landing are a tiny slice of the real effects the travel ban is having. The 109 figure does not account for the hundreds who were suddenly prevented from boarding planes to the United States that they had bought tickets for. Nor does it account for the hundreds or thousands of visa holders currently abroad who can no longer return home to the U.S. Finally, it does not account for the visa holders who are in the U.S. right now and at risk of being deported.
In 2015 there were around 90,000 visa holders from countries affected by the travel ban. We can infer a good estimate that around 90,000 people are affected by the travel ban. In other words, the real fact is a number that is around 900 times greater than what the Trump Administration claimed. Fact checks are becoming more and more crucial as we wade into an unprecedented presidential term that is characterized by a willingness to ignore, subvert, and rewrite truth.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.