I have difficulty conveying the depth of my contempt for this morning’s shoddy article on immigration enforcement.
In a nutshell, the L.A. Times appears to be upset that immigration authorities are doing their jobs better, and deporting more illegal immigrants. And editors express their dissatisfaction by grievously distorting a recent report on deportations and illegal alien criminals.
The article begins:
For more than five years, U.S. immigration authorities have touted the success of a national program aimed at arresting and deporting dangerous criminals and fugitives.
. . . .
But new data released Wednesday showed that 73% of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by the fugitive operations teams between 2003 and early 2008 did not have criminal records, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
The data, along with newly released internal memos, show that the agency abandoned its stated mission to go after dangerous fugitives and instead targeted noncriminal undocumented workers — the “low-hanging fruit,” said Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York, who sued the government to get the documents.
Reading that passage, you’d think that the agency was arresting fewer dangerous fugitives. Not so. Instead, the report shows that the agency has continued to go after dangerous fugitives — arresting them in increasing numbers as time goes on. The L.A. Times won’t tell you that inconvenient fact, because it destroys the dishonest narrative that they are foisting on readers.
So why is there a high percentage of arrestees who are not criminal aliens? The answer is simple. As ICE serves its warrants at the houses of fugitive aliens, it encounters a large number of other illegal immigrants. Before 2006, ICE had a policy of releasing these aliens, because they were not the targets of the raids, (Also, the arresting teams were operating under a quota system that required that 75% of the arrests be fugitive aliens. This discouraged arrests of other illegal immigrants found at the locations where warrants were served.)
In 2006, the policy was changed. Now, the teams serving these warrants were required to arrest any illegal alien with whom they came into contact. Overall arrests and deportations were expected to increase sharply — and they did. In 2003, the teams arrested 1901 illegals; in 2004, they arrested 6584. In 2006, by contrast, after the policy change, the number of overall arrests jumped to 15,462. In 2007, it was an astonishing 30,407.
The article mentions this explanation deeper in the article, but fails to tell you that: 1) the numbers show this explanation is accurate; 2) the absolute number of fugitive aliens with criminal records arrested has gone up over time; 3) there is no evidence that ICE has deliberately targeted locations with no fugitive aliens; and 4) overall arrests of fugitive aliens (with or without criminal records) has gone up significantly.
By accusing ICE of shifting its focus to illegal aliens without records, the L.A. Times implies that ICE has begun targeting locations containing no fugitive aliens at all. The report contains no evidence of that at all. Indeed, the report implies otherwise at page 20, saying that “[t]he majority of the arrests of [illegal immigrants without criminal records] presumably occur because such individuals happen to be nearby whlie [Fugitive Operations Teams] conduct their operations.” In other words, ICE is still targeting locations with fugitive aliens with criminal records. They are simply starting to arrest non-fugitive aliens whom they encounter during those raids.
Ultimately, the editors are whining that federal immigration officials are actually arresting and deporting more of the illegal immigrants with whom they come in contact.
And that’s a bad thing??
Once you understand what’s really going on, it’s hard to see it as a problem. It makes a better story to suggest that we have de-emphasized the effort to get the real bad guys.
Sure, the suggestion is false. But didn’t you hear what I said? It makes a better story.
The narrative is all that matters.
P.S. I have much more detail on the numbers here.
UPDATE: Much more on this here, mostly thanks to carlitos.