Fact-Checking The Fifth Republican Presidential Debate

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

The fifth Republican primary debate, hosted by CNN, featured Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and Fmr. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The two candidates discussed a wide range of issues, including the economy, foreign policy, former President Donald Trump, among other topics.

“Trump deported fewer people than Obama did when he was president,” — Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

According to Politifact, 3.2 million deportations occurred during Barack Obama’s first term as president from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2012 and 2.1 million deportations occurred during his second term from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2016. In comparison, 2 million deportations occurred while Donald Trump served as president from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2020.

Similarly, in 2017, the libertarian Cato Institute indicated the Obama administration removed 1,242,486 illegal immigrants from the interior of the U.S. over the course of its two terms, citing a report released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time. The same report showed that the number of illegal immigrants deported from the interior of the U.S. increased from 65,332 in 2016 to 81,603 in 2017.

A subsequent piece shared by the Cato Institute in 2020 revealed “interior immigration enforcement [had] collapsed under Trump” based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report on removals. According to ICE, the number of illegal immigrants deported from the U.S. interior decreased from 85,958 in 2019 to 62,739 in 2020. ICE also noted that “annual removals from the interior of the United States peaked at 237,941 in 2011 during the Obama administration.”

In addition, The Hill reported in 2019 that deportations under Trump were lower than that of the Obama administration, referencing an article from the Washington Post.

While the federal government describes deportation as the removal of non-citizens from the U.S., it tracks the process in terms of removals, returns, and Title 42 expulsions, according to the same piece from Politifact.

“Florida has the lowest percentage of state government workers per capita in the country.” – DeSantis

In February 2023, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Florida had the “smallest state government workforce per capita among the 50 states,” with 166,609 office workers, park rangers, public health workers, and college professors. The outlet cited this number based on data from the Department of Management Services Annual Workforce Report. The same data showed that Florida had “84 full-time state workers per 10,000 population,” while the “national average is 208.”

DeSantis previously touted Florida’s limited number of government workers during his State of the State address, The Associated Press reported on Jan. 9.

“We have set the standard for limited government,” DeSantis said, according to the outlet. “Florida has the fewest state employees per capita and the lowest state government cost per capita in the entire United States,” he added.

In addition to having the lowest percentage of state government workers per capita in the U.S., Florida was also ranked as the state having the lowest public payroll ratios for state government employees per state resident at $40, compared to a national average of $90, according to the same report.

“When she was governor, she did bring Syrian refugees, and she got criticized for that.” – DeSantis
“That’s not true.” – Haley

During Haley’s time as governor, there were several instances of Syrian refugees coming to the United States; some of them were settled in South Carolina. The Post and Courier reported in Nov. 2016 that at least 22 Syrian refugees had been resettled in the state since the summer. The report goes on to say that Haley announced an additional 26 refugees would be entering soon.

Haley did make her constituents’ security concerns known to then-Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 about the resettling of Syrian refugees in her state. These concerns came after the deadly attack in Paris that killed 130 people carried out by Syrian nationals.

Other reports indicate that in Dec. of 2015 several Syrian refugees were settled in South Carolina. The refugees were settled against the request of Haley’s office. (Did Times Square Billboards Call Ceasefire Anti-Semitic?)

Greenville News reported that The Department of Social Services confirmed that Syrian families had been settled in the state. The report also indicated that Haley was not notified until later when her office discovered the issue.

“We knew in South Carolina if a child couldn’t read by third grade they were four times less likely to graduate high school.” – Nikki Haley

The claim is accurate. A 2011 study found “A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.” It also found that with poverty added to the mix, a student is 13 times less likely to graduate when compared with wealthier, more proficient peers. A study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that for 85 to 90 percent of these poverty-stricken students, “prevention and intervention programs implemented before third grade can increase reading skills to the average levels,” but 75 percent of students will have reading trouble into adult years if these programs are delayed until age nine.

The Illinois Policy Institute reported a troubling outlook for students in Illinois in particular, as only 27 percent of all students statewide could read at grade level by the end of third grade in 2022. Reading proficiently by the end of third grade can make or break a student’s academic success, as “up to half” of printed fourth grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who fall below that reading level, according to a 2010 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Christine Sellers, Joseph Casieri, Anna Mock, and Melissa Hawk contributed to this report.

Check Your Fact Staff