CBP Using Fake Math To Greatly Inflate Number Of Assaults On Border Patrol Officers
from the 'a-vast,-unprecedented-increase-in-departmental-bullshit...' dept
Customs and Border Protection is inflating numbers to push a narrative about dangerous undocumented immigrants. And it’s not just a little bit of fudging. It’s a whole new way of counting — one that fuels anti-immigrant rhetoric and keeps the agency well-funded.
As crime numbers around the nation remain at historic lows, there appears to be an explosion of violence near our southern borders, targeting Border Patrol officers.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, assaults on Border Patrol officers increased dramatically in fiscal year 2016, reversing a long downward trend. That year, CBP claims, there were 454 assaults on agents nationwide, compared with 378 in fiscal year 2015, a 20 percent increase. The increase from 2016 to 2017 was even more surprising. In 2017, according to CBP, there were 786 assaults, a spike of 73 percent, even as apprehensions fell from 415,816 to 310,532.
But there’s actually been no spike in violent incidents. In fact, numbers have been trending downwards since 2012. In 2015, the CBP rolled out its new math, kick starting a rise in number of assaults on CBP officers and reversing the trend. This dramatic increase in assaults on officers isn’t supported by any normal means of counting assaults. This is how the CBP does its “assaults on officers” addition. It involves a lot of multiplication.
Almost the entire increase — 271 purported assaults — was said to have occurred in one sector, the Rio Grande Valley, in South Texas. A large number of the assaults supposedly occurred on a single day, according to charts and details provided by Christiana Coleman, a CBP public affairs spokesperson. In response to questions from The Intercept, Coleman explained in an email that “an incident in the Rio Grande Valley Sector on February 14, 2017, involved seven U.S. Border Patrol Agents assaulted by six subjects utilizing three different types of projectiles (rocks, bottles, and tree branches), totaling 126 assaults.”
This is how you turn seven assaults in 126 assaults: 6 x 3 x 7 = 126. This is the formula used by the CBP since 2015 to greatly overstate violence near the borders and give Americans the false impression Border Patrol officers are increasingly subject to physical assault. A single incident involving seven assaulted officers becomes 119 additional “assaults.”
There’s more to it than simply turning simple tallies into multiplication problems. Apparently, assault doesn’t even have to involve assault.
According to the FBI, most Border Patrol agents for whom assault data has been publicly reported were not injured. Rocks and water bottles don’t always hit their mark. Or they are never thrown in the first place — for reporting purposes, apparently, the mere brandishing of an object constitutes assault.
In all likelihood, being a Border Patrol agent today is as safe as it was in 2015, before CBP started messing with the math. A Border Patrol agent’s relative safety surpasses that of law enforcement officers — another group that tends to exaggerate the life-threatening aspects of the profession.
The decrease was so significant that by 2016, according to FBI statistics, Border Patrol agents were about five times less likely to be assaulted than officers in local police departments — and only half as likely to be killed on the job by homicide or by accident. As the Cato Institute observed in November, “Regular Americans are more than twice as likely to be murdered in any year from 2003 through 2017 than Border Patrol agents were.”
Despite this supposed spike in violent assaults, the CBP has issued zero press releases and made zero public statements about this self-created epidemic of violence. Instead, it has fed those numbers to people who can make the most of them: politicians.
At the Department of Homeland Security’s 15th anniversary celebration in March, Vice President Mike Pence talked about why the Border Patrol needs $21 billion in additional funding “to provide our front-line agents with the personnel, the technology, the equipment, and the facilities to do their job.”
Pence said all this was needed because “one of the most shocking stories we heard was in the last fiscal year” when “attacks on our Border Patrol agents had increased by 73 percent.” This, he added, was why the Trump administration was seeking $18 billion for a border wall.
The CBP is better off allowing politicians to stir anti-immigrant fervor. Politicians are naturally better at PR and selling narratives. What the CBP wants is a steadily-increasing budget and feeding fake stats to lawmakers ensures the paychecks will follow the rhetoric. It’s blatantly dishonest to portray assaults in this manner. And the CBP knows it. But it has no interest in earning the public’s trust or being a good steward of the funds and powers granted to it by the citizens and their government.