Illegal Immigration: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
The quote in the title has been attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli, and others, but its true source remains unknown. Let's call it an anonymous source, which these days forms the basis of numerous stories in the New York Times or Washington Post. At least the unsourced quote is from many years ago and not particularly relevant now, unlike the unsourced stories of today, which make up the new standard of journalism.
Regardless of who said it first, the quote, "is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments." In other words, numbers and statistics can be used selectively to bolster an erroneous premise – or, to put it more simply, to create fake news.
This week, social media were busy showing this graphic in response to President Trump's continued promises to secure the border, using the military if necessary. Here is a graphic from MSNBC.
The point of the chart is to show that border crossings are at a 46-year low. Followed by the media accusing the mean and ignorant president of wasting taxpayer money sending the National Guard to the southern border to stop the migrant caravans bringing the poor and downtrodden to a better life in the U.S.
As an aside, MSNBC has no concern about the hundreds of millions of wasted and destructive taxpayer dollars going to support illegal aliens – or, for that matter, Planned Parenthood, whose taxpayer cash goes to aborting a disproportionate number of poor and minority babies. But that's another subject.
Looking at the chart, the quick takeaway is that illegal border crossings, quite high during the George W. Bush years, precipitously dropped under President Obama, who, despite the assertions of the right, was indeed an illegal immigration hawk, tough on border security, doing yeoman's work stopping illegal immigration.
The media narrative goes on. Trump is merely continuing what Obama started, thuggishly acting as though he is solely responsible for cutting down on illegal immigration, riding the coattails of the great and visionary Barack Hussein O, blowing smoke as usual to keep his oversized ego fully inflated.
OK, that's the MSNBC and CNN narrative. Let me suggest another interpretation.
The graphic is based on the 2017 Border Security Report from the Department of Homeland Security. From the actual report, "[i]n FY17, CBP recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record," CBP being U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
That's as far as big media read in preparing their graphic and talking points. It's similar to how they edit the words of those they dislike – NBC, for example, cutting part of a 911 call from George Zimmerman to create a false narrative that Zimmerman was a racist.
If the intrepid journalistic sleuths read the very next sentence, their story might have changed. The report then said, "As measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at U.S. ports of entry."
Four simple words turn their entire story upside-down – as measured by apprehensions.
The entire chart is based not on how many illegally crossed our borders, but how many were apprehended. It's as if the number of drug-dealers in the U.S. were based on how many are caught and convicted, which is a fraction of the total number out there.
What if the Obama policy were to understaff border crossings? Or direct agents to be less vigilant or vigorous in arresting illegal aliens? In other words, what if the numbers dropped dramatically during the Obama years simply because existing law wasn't being enforced?
Rather than apprehending illegal aliens, the Obama directive was to look the other way and let them in. Then voilà: the number of apprehensions drops dramatically, despite illegal immigration actually increasing.
Obama's approach to border security was well known, going as far as directing his Department of Justice to sue states, such as Arizona, for having the unmitigated gall to enforce actual federal immigration law.
How many busloads of "unaccompanied alien children" crossed the U.S. border during the Obama years? Obama "declared it an urgent humanitarian situation and named a federal coordinator to make sure the children are cared for – but offered no new ideas for how to keep them from trying to enter."
That was in 2014, and the White House expected the 60,000 "unaccompanied minor children" number to double in 2015. If they weren't apprehended, how were they measured? The MSNBC chart showed that only apprehensions were down, not actual illegal immigration, which was on the rise. Fake news.
No wonder the CBP chart showed a drop during the Obama years. The door was wide open, and only a fraction of those entering the country illegally were actually apprehended and measured for the sake of this statistical report.
This is similar to what was discovered, but hardly reported, after the Parkland school shooting. Many public schools have a policy of not reporting crimes in order to secure federal funding under the measure to supposedly prevent the "school-to-prison pipeline."
Police, in cahoots with the school boards, would ignore crimes, or downgrade their severity, as well as lose evidence, all to make their school statistics show little if any crime. And in exchange, the school boards would receive taxpayer dollars to use as they wished, whether to fund the re-election campaign of the local sheriff, complicit in the scheme, or pad the salaries and benefits of school administrators.
If they don't arrest or charge anyone with a crime, then statistically, the crime didn't happen. It's like the old axiom for medical interns: "If you don't take a temperature, you can't find a fever" – thereby avoiding hours of extra work evaluating the cause of the fever. Decriminalize an activity, and it goes away – statistically, anyway, but not in reality.
I suspect that Trump's numbers on illegal border crossing apprehensions reflect the reality that crossings are indeed way down because fewer are trying to cross the border illegally. The few who do are being apprehended at a much higher rate. Potential border-crossers fear Trump in a way they never feared Obama, especially now that Trump signed a memo ending "catch and release." There is a new sheriff in town.
The entire premise of illegal border crossings being down under Obama, and no lower under Trump, is either a lie or a damned lie. You can decide which.
The left is using dishonest statistics to push a false narrative, parroted by the complicit media. That explains why media distrust is at an all-time high.
Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.