During the past few days, several news outlets told us that the number of illegal border crossings 'surged' in March 2018. This is a topic that interests me, therefore I wanted to see if the data supported what the news was claiming...
Trump's desire to secure the US borders is one of the things that got him elected. Thousands of people try to cross the US borders illegally (without permission/paperwork/etc), but it's difficult to get an exact number. For example...
- How do you count the ones that don't get caught?
- If you catch more people, does that mean there were more people trying to cross the border, or does that mean your guards are doing a better job and catching a higher percent of the people attempting to cross?
The hard data that's available is the number of people who get caught, therefore that's what I'll use in my analysis. I found the historical data in a pdf document, and the recent data in a Customs and Border Protection web page. With a bit of magic (aka, hard work), I got all the data into a spreadsheet, which I could then easily import into SAS. Now, let's visually analyze that data with some graphs...
Looking at the data for the current & previous fiscal years, the graph confirms that the 37,393 illegal alien apprehensions along the southwest US border (between US and Mexico) in March 2018 is the highest number since Trump took office in January 2017. The number apprehended in March 2018 is three times as high as the number apprehended in March 2017 (12,197). Therefore, it is true that we did have a 'surge' in March.
Compared to Recent Past
If you plot the data back to year 2012, it appears that 2017 (Trump's first year) is an anomaly, and the 2018 values are right in line with previous years. I'm not saying the number of apprehensions in the past few years were good/good-enough/desirable - just saying that the 2018 values are about the same as those.
Compared to the Long-Term Trend
If we plot the values back to year 2000, the current values look very low, by comparison. But comparing current numbers to the numbers from 10-20 years ago might be comparing apples-to-oranges. For example, before fingerprint identification was started and catch-and-release policies ended, the numbers might have been very high because the same people might have been making multiple attempts (and getting caught multiple times).
So, did we really have a 'surge' in March 2018? I guess my answer would be "it depends..."
What's your opinion? Feel free to leave a comment!