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Misleading Border Crime Statistic

U.S. Border Patrol encountered 6,259 immigrants with criminal convictions, many of them for illegal entry charges, in fiscal 2018, according to the most recent statistics. Yet, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney misleadingly claimed authorities “had arrested 17,000 criminals at the southern border.”

President Donald Trump, too, included this figure in a letter he sent to Congress on Jan. 4, saying “17,000 adults at the border with existing criminal records were arrested” last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The White House, and Mulvaney, used the figure to argue for the necessity of a border wall. But the figure includes more than 10,000 people who were stopped while trying to lawfully enter the country at legal ports of entry throughout the U.S., according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Mulvaney made his claim on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Jan. 6, saying it was “frustrating” that the administration and Democrats in Congress “can’t even agree on the basic facts.” But the administration is spinning these numbers.

Mulvaney, CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jan. 6: One of the most frustrating things, Jake, about the meeting that we had yesterday was that we can’t even agree on the basic facts. The DHS, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to point out that we had arrested 17,000 criminals at the southern border so far — well, actually, just last year — and Nancy Pelosi simply refused to accept that fact.

She said, those are your facts, and trying to make the point there are not your facts and my facts. There are just facts. If you can’t even have a basic understanding of the facts, it’s going to be very difficult to come to an agreement.

Here are the facts, according to Customs and Border Protection, through Aug. 31, 2018, one month shy of the full 2018 fiscal year:

  • Border Patrol, which is “responsible for securing U.S. borders between ports of entry,” encountered 6,259 “criminal aliens,” immigrants who were apprehended and had been “convicted of crime, whether in the United States or abroad.”
  • Those 6,259 people stopped by Border Patrol had been convicted of 7,820 offenses, 46.5 percent of which were illegal entry/reentry offenses. More than 1,000 had been convicted of driving under the influence; 816 had been convicted on drug possession or trafficking charges. Three had records for homicide or manslaughter. See the rest of CBP’s breakdown here.
  • Another 10,572 “criminal aliens” were encountered by CBP’s Office of Field Operations, which handles the 328 ports of entry in the United States, where individuals seek lawful entry into the country.

CBP statistics don’t include a breakdown of the convictions of individuals stopped by the Office of Field Operations at ports of entry, nor is there a breakdown for how many people were encountered along the Southwest border. However, every year thousands are turned away for various reasons at ports of entry across the country, from Buffalo, New York, to Miami to Seattle.

We do know that the number of those with criminal convictions stopped by Border Patrol in the first 11 months of fiscal 2018 (6,259) is 1.7 percent of the total apprehensions by Border Patrol in that time period (361,993). We also know, from CBP statistics, that nearly all of those total apprehensions occurred along the Southwest border.

As for the Office of Field Operations figures, those with criminal convictions made up 5.2 percent of those deemed inadmissible to the U.S. (204,288) in that 11-month period, and 56.5 percent of total inadmissibles were encountered at ports of entry along the Southwest border.

So, the administration’s figure includes mostly people who tried to enter the U.S. lawfully through ports of entry, some of which aren’t even on the Southwest border.

We asked the White House and CBP if they could provide more information about these figures as they relate to the Southwest border, but we haven’t received a response. We will update this article if we do.

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"We had arrested 17,000 criminals at the southern border so far — well, actually, just last year."
TV interview
Sunday, January 6, 2019