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Corrected Headline: Illegal Border Crossings By Families Increases Steeply

Yesterday, several news articles revealed that the Obama administration is eager to convince the public that its brutal raids and and subsequent deportations of women and children fleeing war in Central America have yielded a decrease in unaccompanied children and family unit apprehensions made this January. 

Julia Preston, who is one of rare journalists that Jeh Johnson provides direct quotes to, wrote an article in the New York Times titled “Illegal Border Crossings by Families Drop Sharply.”, in which she repeatedly emphasized a “steep drop” in crossings in January of 2016, as one can see here: 

A 65 percent drop from December to January in crossings by families — mostly women with their children from three violence-torn countries in Central America — came after widely publicized raids in the first days of this year in which 121 migrants were arrested for deportation. 

Here is the extraordinarily limited data that Preston cites to support her article: 

In January there were 3,145 apprehensions by the Border Patrol of migrants in families, down from 8,974 in December. Additionally, agents caught 3,113 children crossing without parents in January, a 54 percent decrease from 6,786 in December. Overall apprehensions at the southwest border declined 36 percent from December and were at the lowest levels since January 2015, according to the figures.

For family units, DHS’ month by month apprehension data from FY2013 to FY2015 show that the number of apprehensions in January of 2016–3,145–is the highest number in history for the month of January. 

Here is the breakdown for number of apprehensions family units in January from 2013, 2014, & 2015. 

In January of 2015, only 1,632 family units were apprehended. See this chart: 

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As you can see, there were 1,632; 2316; and 855 family unit apprehensions for 2015; 2014; and 2013, respectively. Which begs the question, why are January’s numbers being reported as a decline when in fact they are nearly twice as high as January of 2015? 

The complete and utter lack of context in reporting the numbers from which the supposed decline fell from–specifically, December of 2015–further illustrates how egregiously misleading the New York Times and other reports are.

In December of 2015, there were 8,974 family unit apprehensions.

As such, family unit apprehensions in December of 2015 were more than three times as much than December of FY 2015 and significantly higher than any month of FY 2015 and historically the highest number for the month of December. 

The statistics on unaccompanied children apprehensions for January of 2016 are also reported in grossly misleading light. 

Record High Numbers of Children Continue to Flee Central America for Asylum in the United States

In January of 2016, the 3113 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border was the second highest recorded for the month of January, slightly less than  the 3,711 apprehensions in the “surge” year of 2014 yet significantly higher than the 2,123 apprehensions in the immediately previous January of 2015. 

The 6,786 unaccompanied kids apprehended in December of 2015 was a record high for the month of December, more than doubling the 2,862 apprehensions from December of 2014.

So, what do these numbers mean in light of how they have been reported in the mainstream media? 

That DHS is given VIP treatment in how stories are framed in order to further their agenda. Here, it is to create an inference that there is a plausible link between the January 2016 raids and what turns out to be an illusory decline in number of apprehensions. 

To have integrity, reporting on these numbers requires comparison to all previous years where data is available, not solely the immediately preceding month. 

Here are more accurate headline ideas, customized for the New York Times’ addiction to using the word illegal to describe anything relating to immigration. 

 “Illegal Border Crossings by Families Increases Steeply” or “Illegal Border Crossings by Families Is Record High for Month of January.” 

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