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Story highlights

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches

They selected key statements and rated them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated

(CNN) —  

The Democratic Party gathered in Philadelphia on Wednesday for the third night of its convention, and CNN’s Reality Check Team put the speakers’ statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.

Crime, illegal immigration

Reality Check: Obama on crime and illegal immigration rates

By Kate Grise and Sonam Vashi, CNN

President Barack Obama accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of fearmongering without looking at the facts. “It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues,” Obama said. “He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear.”

Let’s break down his claims about illegal immigration and crime.

As we reported last week on a similar claim made by Obama, the best measure that we have of how many people try to enter the country illegally is how many of those people are apprehended each year, according to the United States Border Patrol.

In 1986, the number of apprehensions peaked and U.S. Border Patrol picked up more than 1.6 million undocumented immigrants. In the 1990s, more than 1 million people trying to cross the border illegally were apprehended each year.

During President George W. Bush’s tenure from 2001-2009, on average, 1 million undocumented workers were picked up each year.

The numbers of people apprehended crossing the border illegally has been on the decline since Obama took office, and in 2015, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 337,117 people, the lowest number since 1971.

It is, of course, very difficult to check the total number of people who have tried to cross the border in any given year. The number of apprehensions gives us a good idea, but it also assumes that border patrol’s resources and effectiveness have remained somewhat constant over the years. There is also no way to know how many people crossing the border illegally eluded arrest or how aggressive Border Patrol agents are with apprehensions at any given time.

Obama: America is already great

In the early 1990s, there were more than 4,000 Border Patrol agents and fewer physical barriers on the border. Today, the number of agents staffing the border patrol has risen to more than 20,000. Since the 1990s, Border Patrol has focused on deterring people from trying to cross the border in the first place. Customs and Border Protection says that their expanded capability has “substantially deterred illegal entries,” and they say that “the number of Border Patrol encounters with people trying to enter the country illegally dropped by 78% between fiscal years 2000 and 2012.”

The number of people apprehended by Border Patrol has been on a general decline since 2005, though there was a slight increase between 2012 and 2014. Since Obama took office in fiscal year 2009, there has been a 39% decrease in apprehensions of people who tried to cross the border illegally.

There have been, however, large fluctuations in the number of children and their families and unaccompanied children apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border. Between fiscal years 2013-2014, there are there was a huge spike in the number of unaccompanied children and family unit subjects apprehended by Border Patrol. The trend slowed the following year, and apprehensions picked back up in the first half of fiscal year 2016 when there were almost as many unaccompanied children and family units apprehended as there were in all of fiscal year 2015.

The reason that people are crossing the border is shifting, said Donald Kerwin, director of the Center for Migration Studies of New York. Fewer people are coming to seek work and more people are seeking refuge from violence or because they are afraid for their lives, which could explain the increase in families and children being apprehended trying to cross the border illegally.

01:11 - Source: CNN
Obama to DNC: Donald Trump offering slogans and fear

We rate Obama’s claim as true based on the best metric we have to measure how many people may be crossing the border, even though it is far from perfect.

As for the President’s claim about crime: the FBI measures violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The violent crime rate in 2014 was the lowest it’s been since the mid-1990s and it has decreased by 15% between 2009, when Obama took office, and 2014, the latest year for which full data is available. The homicide rate in 2014 was 4.5 per 100,000 people, which was the lowest rate since 1964.

But let’s look at larger trends of U.S. violence. Murders increased in the 1960s and 70s, fell midway during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, peaked in 1991, and then began a sharp decline until the present, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The overall violent crime rate has also been steadily declining since the 1990s, according to FBI data.

So, violent crime and homicide rates were already on a downward trend before Obama took office. It’s not fair to credit his presidency for any increases or decreases in those rates without noting that larger trend, but Obama is true