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Refuting (not rebutting) Media Matters

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By Hans A. Von Spakovsky
Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Media Matters, the self-styled “media watchdog” of the left, has accused the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review of using “deceptive numbers” to “attack” immigration reform. But the Trib is exactly right when it says that the Obama administration is not committed to border enforcement and cannot be trusted to implement a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

The criticisms voiced by Media Matters are way off base — particularly their claims about so-called “secret numbers” from The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Media Matters accused CIS of “fabricating information.” The inaccuracy of this slur is exposed by one simple fact: CIS accurately predicted the downturn in ICE removal numbers for 2013 back in October. On Oct. 30, The Washington Times reported CIS's prediction that Department of Homeland Security removals of illegal aliens for fiscal year 2013 would be 364,700. On Dec. 19, DHS reported 368,644 removals for FY2013.

So, the CIS prediction was within 1 percent of DHS's official numbers two months before DHS reported them. That is pretty accurate “secret” information.

The numbers reported by DHS represent an 11 percent reduction in removals just from 2012. Total deportations under the Obama administration are the lowest since 1973. The administration has tried to manipulate the statistics to artificially inflate deportation numbers by mixing Border Patrol “apprehensions” — when aliens are stopped and turned back at the border — with ICE “deportation” statistics — when aliens from the interior are removed from this country.

These Border Patrol cases were not included in deportation numbers until the Obama administration. Only about one-third of this year's “deportations,” as reported by DHS, came from the interior. In fact, the administration deported only about 1 percent of the illegal aliens present in the U.S. this year.

There are other reasons to question the administration's commitment to enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. Border patrol and immigration enforcement employees report they are being told not to make arrests of noncriminal illegal aliens and not to patrol high-traffic transit areas along the southwest border. One Border Patrol official told The Examiner of Washington that administration officials are deliberately failing to document what is actually happening on the border: “In many cases my supervisors make it clear that they don't want increased apprehension numbers, which means no arrests,” he said.

But no one has to take the word of Heritage or CIS on this issue. On Dec. 13, a federal judge in Texas issued a blistering indictment of the administration's immigration policy. Indeed, he accused DHS of “completing the criminal mission” of human traffickers “who are violating the border security” of the country.

The order, issued by Judge Andrew S. Hanen in U.S. v. Nava-Martinez, stated that the administration “should cease telling the citizens of the United States that it is enforcing our border security laws because it is clearly not. Even worse, it is helping those who violate these laws.”

As the judge told DHS in that case, the government “should enforce the laws of the United States — not break them.”

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department official.

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