One of the strangest aspects of the increasing imperialism of the U.S. executive branch is the profound disconnect between rhetoric and actual public policy. If asked, the average American would associate Trump with deporting illegal immigrants and Obama with federal gun enforcement efforts. Yet statistics show the precise opposite.

Tenth Amendment Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey recently reported that since Trump’s election in 2016, ATF has increased the numbers of federal gun control cases it has pursued for three straight years. Last year, it recommended 11,319 cases for prosecution compared to just 7,577 in 2014. The number of indictments for federal gun control violations and subsequent convictions has also increased since the Obama years. Last year also represented the greatest level of federal gun control enforcement in history.

It is important to remember that Trump was backed by the NRA and draws his support from gun owners, so there was no political pressure from his supporters to ramp up investigations. Those laws are all also in violation of the Second Amendment and shouldn’t be enforced on constitutional grounds. On top of that, Trump actually expanded gun control via a bump stock ban that was created through the ATF rather than Congress.

Then he bragged about it.

“At my direction, the DOJ banned bump stocks. Last year we prosecuted a record number of firearms offenses.”

Despite Trump’s reputation as the Second Amendment president, he was worse than Obama.

On the other hand, most people view Trump as the “great deporter” and Obama as the protector of immigrants. This rhetoric doesn’t match up with reality either.

Again, this is a powerful image but in reality an illusion. While Trump has indeed increased the number of deportations and arrests compared to 2016, those numbers pale in comparison to much of Obama’s eight-year presidency.

In 2009, there were almost 300,000 arrests by ICE compared to just 143,000 last year. Deportations in 2013 were 432,281 compared to 337,287 in 2019. While deportations had been increasing steadily since 2002 before tapering off in 2014, southwest border apprehensions had also remained steady until 2019.

Today’s political debates are often reduced to mere rhetoric. But at the end of the day, the facts matter more, because they tell you what is actually going on. It’s unclear why there is such as a disconnect between the last two presidents’ talk and their action regarding two hot-button issues their supporters care about, but it’s all the more reason to watch what politicians do rather than what they or anyone else says they do.

TJ Martinell

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