Amateur Analysis and Pseudo Journalism at BuzzFeed News

By Dan Cadman on September 17, 2015

Some readers will remember the proto-reality television series "Jackass" that ran on MTV more than a decade ago. Wikipedia aptly describes it as "featuring people performing various dangerous, crude, self-injuring stunts and pranks."

That description, I think, is also perfectly descriptive of immigration analysis when undertaken by amateurs or, worse, journalists determined to write an article that conforms to their predetermined notions, no matter how hard they have to pound that square peg to fit it into a round hole.

A perfect example is an article that appeared in BuzzFeed News recently. Lest you be a well-intentioned progressive, but a little slow on the uptake, the authors ensure that you get the drift right from the headline and lede:

Immigration Authorities Are Far More Likely To Jail You If You're Mexican

An analysis of nationwide federal data by BuzzFeed News — the first of its kind — found that immigration authorities incarcerate immigrants from Mexico at far higher rates than those from any other country.

By way of example, they alert us to the fact that 75 percent of Mexicans facing deportation proceedings on non-criminal grounds are detained. They go on to say, "For Guatemalans, the next most frequently detained group, the rate was 61 percent. For China and Cuba, longtime adversaries of the United States, the rates were 19 percent and 16 percent."

Shock! Horror! Dismay! How could those dastardly jackbooted immigration enforcement thugs show such egregious selectivity? Well, let's spend, say, maybe 10 seconds thinking about the whys and wherefores. Maybe the Buzzfeed authors can join us in this thought-fest.

  1. Even in the down-the-rabbit-hole world of immigration policies under the Obama administration, "recent border crossers" are still a top enforcement priority. That would almost inevitably skew the statistics toward apprehension and detention of Mexicans for obvious reasons.
  2. Guatemalan detention figures are high because they, along with Salvadorans and Hondurans, have been using Mexico as their doormat en route to the United States in their attempt to cross the border illegally. By the way, did you miss the news about last summer's "surge", which in fact began much sooner than last summer, and has continued at inordinately high levels since?

And are the authors really serious, comparing Mexican detention levels with those of Chinese or Cuban nationals? Have they been in a Rip Van Winkle-style time bubble for the duration of their existences?

  1. Unlike Mexican nationals, who are deported quickly and routinely because Mexican consular officials are relatively cooperative and efficient, nationals of the People's Republic of China (PRC) cannot be repatriated routinely without permission of the Chinese government. The repatriation process moves deliberately and inordinately slowly. What is more, PRC nationals have a nearly prima facie case for asylum, given the one-family/one-child rule that their communist masters rigorously enforce. I don't say that the rule isn't abused by people seeking to take advantage of our asylum system, but both political parties have exerted so much pressure for so long on the bureaucracy that handles asylum adjudications that a finding of credible fear, followed by a grant of asylum, is a near given. Why then would the authorities bother to lock up such nationals as a matter of course?
  2. In the case of Cuban nationals, given their communist masters, plus the application of the Cuban Adjustment Act, they don't even have to bother with a successful claim to asylum. As with PRC nationals, Cubans cannot be repatriated without permission of the Castro regime, and such permissions are rare and slow in coming. Consequently, those who reach our shores are paroled, regardless of the legitimacy of their claim to asylum. And a year after being paroled, they are in like Flynn, and entitled to adjust to resident alien status. Even with the administration's new detente with the Cuban government, has anyone heard the president or any other official suggest abandoning the Cuban Adjustment Act? No. So, again, why bother to lock them up?

Another point: If it is true that three-quarters of Mexicans facing deportation are detained (for the reasons laid out in item 1 above), then it is equally true that the vast majority of Mexicans illegally in the United States live their lives virtually unimpeded. The Pew Hispanic Center tells us that in 2014 there were 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States, of whom 52 percent were Mexican nationals, and according to the left-leaning Migration Policy Institute, under the Obama administration's skewed priorities, fully 87 percent of the illegal alien population in the interior gets a pass on any kind of enforcement — which of course would apply to that 52 percent. What's more, in April 2014 former ICE Acting Director John Sandweg was quoted in the Los Angeles Times admitting there is a near-zero chance of your run-of-the-mill illegal alien being deported. That, too, would apply to Mexican nationals illegally in the United States.

Enough of this farce. No wonder this "analysis of nationwide federal data" by BuzzFeed was "the first of its kind". No one else considered it worth doing. Contrary to the thinly veiled message the authors intended to send, there is no evidence of untoward bias where Mexican aliens are concerned. Their illegal crossings are a function of the confluence of geography and economics and their detention rate is a function of even this administration doing a de minimis job of at least maintaining the fiction of border control.

Analysis and interpretation of immigration statistics shouldn't be attempted by journalists or anyone else trying to force a narrative. Too bad the government doesn't label its immigration figures with a legend: Warning! These figures have been compiled, and should only be analyzed, by knowledgeable experts! Don't try this at home!