Did NumbersUSA Fudge Sources to Help Rep. Smith Prove POTUS is “Cooking the Books?”

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Aug 29, 2012

Roy Beck (l), head of NumbersUSA, and Rep Lamar Smith (r)

This past Saturday, August 25, anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA – the group underwriting lawsuit of 10 ICE agents against the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) – posted a blog on its website titled, “House Judiciary Committee Charges Administration with Falsifying Deportation Numbers.”

The blog focuses on Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who has recently charged that “President Obama and other administration officials have falsified their record to achieve their so-called historic deportation numbers,” according to “internal documents” received upon the Committee’s request.

It seems that Rep. Smith, who is also an executive committee member of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR) backed House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), and NumbersUSA are upset that “Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP)” returns-which are not counted as removals-have been folded into deportation sums. (Essentially, after being caught by enforcement agents, removals are forced deportations, whereas returns are more-or-less voluntary ones, which should not be confused, though, with “voluntary departures.”)

Not appeased by record levels of deportations, it seems the anti-immigrant movement is now stooping to quarrel with terms of classification in an attempt to dilute the severity of President Obama’s immigration record. In the aforementioned blog NumbersUSA writes, “Lamar Smith says the Administration is ‘cooking the books’ in reporting its deportation figures.” Yet, NumbersUSA itself might be guilty of cooking up something misleading, either purposefully or accidentally.

Ponder the following convoluted paragraph:

“When ATEP removals are subtracted from ICE’s deportation numbers, the 2011 removal total would drop from approximately 397,000 to roughly 360,000 and the 2012 removal total would drop from about 334,000 to around 263,000 (annualized this is estimated to be a drop from about 400,000 to 315,000). This means that ICE removals for this year will be about 14% below 2008 (369,000) and 19% below 2009 (389,000).

Let’s focus on the bolded sentence above, and examine the DHS’s actual annual reports from the two years NumbersUSA pinpoints:

  • 2008: “Nearly 359,000 aliens were removed from the United States—the sixth consecutive record high”; however, “ICE physically removed approximately 263,000 foreign nationals during 2008. CBP [Customs & Border Protection] physically removed the remainder, 96,000.”
  • 2009: “393,000 foreign nationals were removed from the United States—the seventh consecutive record high”; however, “ICE removed approximately 298,000 foreign nationals during 2009. CBP removed the remainder, 95,000.”

Here’s a chart from ICE’s own site that seems to clarify the nuances that NumbersUSA has perhaps confused. When comparing the DHS’s total removals of 359,000 and 393,000 with ICE’s totals below, take special notice of the differentiation between the “Returns” and “Removals” that ICE has reported:

Instead of using the DHS’s actual total number of removals, NumbersUSA has used ICE’s totals. The problems is, ICE’s totals are the sum of that agency’s removals plus returns-as was mentioned earlier, returns are not the same as removals. And so what this chart helps us further understand is that “Removals” and “Returns” are not interchangeable terms that may be lumped together, per se-and this is exactly the type of “cooking” that Rep. Smith and NumbersUSA are trying and convicting others for in the court of public opinion.

In the bolded sentence in question, NumbersUSA has lumped the two categories together-it seems-in order to illegitimately stack falsely-severe removals figures against a President who has actually amassed, to take from Rep. Smith’s words, some truly “historic deportation numbers.”

Mistakes happen, yes. Given NumbersUSA’s track record of associating with extremists, though, this reads dubiously.

Much has been made by pro-immigrant grassroots activists about these record deportation numbers-i.e. human beings-that have occurred since President Obama took office. In particular, many activists have taken stern issue with the record high amounts of non-criminal deportations that have been occurring. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, under the Obama administration from 2009-2011, 630,000 non-criminal undocumented immigrants were returned or removed from the United States. Those 630,000 non-criminals represent 53.4% of the total number of removals and returns (1,180,000) for that same three year period.

53.4% is as telling of a figure as it is a true one.

And if nothing else underscores NumberUSA, FAIR, HIRC, Lamar Smith, Kris Kobach, and the rest of the anti-immigrant movement’s obsessiveness, it’s that these record numbers don’t satisfy their collective lust for deportations, returns, removals, etc, etc, and so on of undocumented immigrants.

The numbers, like NumbersUSA, speak for themselves.

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