What do financial planners, real estate agents, business development professionals and politicians have in common? All of them use statistics to drive home their points. Have you ever seen an investment professional who is marketing his or her services show you an investment portfolio that has declined in value over time? I have not. But does that mean that investment professional has never chosen poor investments? Or did they pick and choose the best data to make themselves look better and get a specific message across?
We do not have to blindly accept the statistics and data that may be fed to us to support a specific narrative. It is smart to raise questions. Along those lines, the Trump administration has stated its intention to post the National Guard at the southern border until a wall is built. To prove the so-called “urgent” need for this, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press statement, and cites some statistics in an effort to back up its claims. The statement reads, in part:
“The crisis at our Southwest border is real. The number of illegal border crossings during the month of March shows an urgent need to address the ongoing situation at the border.”
Ok, that may sound urgent and rational, however if you scroll down to the bottom of the statement to the statistics DHS references, the figures used for “illegal border crossings” include both apprehensions and those deemed inadmissible. But those two things are not the same.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inadmissibility metrics include: individuals encountered at ports of entry who are seeking lawful admission into the United States but are determined to be inadmissible, individuals presenting themselves to seek humanitarian protection under our laws; and individuals who withdraw an application for admission and return to their countries of origin within a short time-frame. To include persons seeking lawful admission into the United States, and individuals seeking humanitarian protection, and individuals who withdraw an application for admission into a statistic DHS calls “illegal border crossings” is misleading. A person presenting himself or herself for lawful admission at a port of entry is not an “illegal border crosser.”
Out of the statistics cited by CBP, should we be more concerned with apprehensions or those found inadmissible? As recently covered in an Immigration Impact post by Senior Policy Analyst Joshua Breisblatt of the American Immigration Council, apprehensions at the border are at their lowest levels in more than 45 years. Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 had a significant decrease (23.7 percent) from FY 2016.
What about inadmissibility figures? More than 61 million people traveled through the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last year, a good number of them were noncitizens presenting themselves for admission. I have not heard concerns about rising inadmissibility figures. To the contrary, CBP is fulfilling its duties by processing inadmissible travelers. Adding the inadmissibility statistics to the apprehension statistics, and then labeling them all “illegal border crossings” certainly strengthens the narrative DHS wants to deliver, but isn’t necessarily real, accurate, or true.
Anyone can use statistics to make a claim. As has been said many times, there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” You can make any numerical graph go up or down. But, we should not accept them without question, and the statistics highlighted by DHS to support its claim of an urgent need to deploy the National Guard along the southern border raise significant questions.