President Trump says there’s a crisis at the border. The data says something else | The Numbers Racket

February 18, 2019 10:40 am

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background. WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.

President Donald Trump did an end-run around Congress last week, declaring a national emergency that will enable him to redirect roughly $8 billion from across the government to fund the construction of his much-ballyhooed wall at America’s southern border with Mexico.

Key to Trump’s claim is that there is “an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people,” at the border that only a wall can stop.  But is America really being invaded? A dive into the data suggests that is not the case.

It’s time for The Numbers Racket.

467,000 – That’s the number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, the most for any calendar year since at least 2012. That’s according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent available data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As Pew notes, the increase partly driven “by a dramatic spike in border apprehensions of family members at the end of last year.”

1 million: That’s the number of apprehensions through the the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, where there was a genuine issue at the border. That number, again, is based on U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

27,000 – That’s the number of family apprehensions at the border in December 2018, according to the Pew analysis. The number rose steadily in the months leading up to the 35-day government shutdown. The number of family apprehensions rose from nearly 17,000 last September, more than 23,000 last October and more than 25,000 last November, the Pew analysis found.

Pew Research Center graphic

163,000 – The total number of family members apprehended in in 2018. That’s more than three times as many in 2017, and the highest number since at least 2012, the Pew analysis shows.

35 percent – According to Pew, family members accounted for about a third of all border apprehensions in 2018. That’s the highest share within the last seven years. Again, the months leading up to the shutdown drove the increase. Family member apprehensions last December made up more than half (54 percent) of all border apprehensions that month, the four consecutive high since last September (40 percent), the Pew analysis found.

Pew Research Center graphic

54,000 – The number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, or 12 percent of the total. The share was lower than in 2014-2016 (14 percent). As Pew notes, “Unaccompanied child apprehensions do not include children who were apprehended as a family unit and later became unaccompanied as a result of prosecution initiatives.”

250,000 – The number of single adult apprehensions, or 54 percent of the total. Still “the recent surge in family unit apprehensions is particularly notable because December 2018 marks the third time family member apprehensions exceeded single adult apprehensions, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The other two times were in October and November,” the Pew analysis found.

95 percent – The number of apprehended family members in December 2018 who hailed from Mexico or the Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras).  Overall, however, “there have been more apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at U.S. borders, reflecting a decline in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. over the past decade.”

Pew Research Center

82.8 per 10,000 – That’s murder rate in El Salvador. It’s the world’s highest. And while you may have heard that undocumented immigrants are coming here to commit crime, it’s much more likely that they’re fleeing it. As the Pew analysis notes Honduras has the world’s second-highest murder rate at 56.5 per 10,000 people. Guatemala was 10th at 27.3 per 10,000 people, Pew found, citing data from the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.