Sunday, April 17, 2011
The Issue is Truth
Border Apprehension Predictor
Effective Protection or Economics
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
The word out of the retired Border Patrol crew remains a low rumbling growl. It grows or subsides based on administration signals and speeches reminding how efficient the border protection effort is. Secretary Janet Napolitano, code named “Big Sis” by the crew, is the most incandescent lightning rod of the bunch. Her appearance at border summits where she reminds folks of how safe the border is always sets off a storm. It reverberates off into the horizon and then rumbles back through the still mornings rattling windows and upsetting coffee cups.
“Who is she possibly convincing?” is the plaintive cry.
From 2000 through fiscal year 2010, total apprehension of illegal immigrants continued a downward spiral. The decrease has not been fluid, but the general direction has been downward. In 2000, the total number apprehended on all borders was just over 1.8 million. By 2009 it had diminished to 613,000.
Fiscal year 2010 experienced yet more decrease. The results came in under the half million mark at 463,382. The last time the result was that low was in 1971 and before most Border Patrol front line agents were born! Something surely must be in play with that result.
In fact, if 2010 is an indicator, results may continue on a similar trend. The Administration would be pleased with that . . . wouldn’t they?
Is there a Predictor
Since the Border Patrol was founded in 1924, there has never been a good indicator to predict illegal immigration. Attempting to use an index based on population is a dismal failure. Yes, illegal immigration has gone up in the face of population increases, but too many years of contradictory records dispel any logic for a firm prediction tool.
An argument can be made that certain political events had impact on the annual tide of immigrants. In 1986 the year the Immigration Act was passed, illegal immigrant apprehensions jumped nearly 420,000. Could the Congressional action have stimulated immigration? Yes, but the 1987 results with numbers down over 575,000 from those of 1986 remind us that there are many factors that must play into the results. Further analysis will also suggest that factors can be complicated by multiple influences hence any long term predictor seems to be impossible.
A question arises, though, about some mechanism to predict illegal immigration in the shorter term when conditions are more consistent. Can it be done, and, if it can be done, what are the implications?
To the Algorithm
If the American economy is the driver of illegal immigration, a function to calculate such immigration should be possible to define. Abundant data is available. In fact, it is interesting to note how current conditions, reflected by the American unemployment rate, can predict illegal immigration apprehensions.
As noted, many factors seem to come into play over a span of years rendering any long term prediction process a moving target. With that in mind, only data from 2007 forward was analyzed. The hope was that conditions of the Bush years impacting the start of the period would blend with the conditions of the current administration and a profile could be assimilated. The results were pretty good.
In statistics, regression analyses are graded by what is known as an R² value. The closer to 1 the R² value is the more accurate the model is. It is a method of determining if the data is valid in attempting to calculate a certain outcome.
By inputting national unemployment rates and corresponding Border Patrol apprehension rates from 2007 through 2010, the resulting R² was .93. What that means is that there was a high correlation of the national unemployment rate and the illegal immigration in the years of the data. Another way to describe the outcome is, under current conditions, it is hard to deny the fact recent year unemployment in the United States is the major factor driving the Border Patrol apprehension numbers.
A Closer look
To those who care about such things, the calculated algorithm was as follows:
Yearly apprehensions = 1,314,669.72 – 82,891.69 (times unemployment rate)
The model allows several interesting things to happen. For one, it can be used to compare what actually happened with what should have happened given actual unemployment rates. If the actual results since 2007 are arrayed next to the numbers calculated by the new model by inputting actual unemployment rates, an assessment of Border Patrol effectiveness can be described.
In 2007, the actual apprehensions were 960,757 and the calculated or predicted apprehension number from the model was 933,368. In 2008, the actual and calculated similarly was 791,568 and 833,898. In 2009, the numbers were 613,003 and 545,849. Finally, the last year of data, fiscal year 2010, were 463,382 and 515,594, respectively.
If all things remained consistent, the 2007 numbers would suggest that the Border Patrol caught 27,388 more illegals than their recent year efficiency standards would have predicted. They outperformed the model expectation.
In 2008, 42,330 more illegals made it into the United States than the standard would have predicted. The Border Patrol underperformed based on the model.
In 2009, the Border Patrol again outperformed the model by 67,154 apprehensions.
In 2010, they were upside down with 52,212 more illegals entering the Unites States than what the combined influences would have suggested. That number must be added to those illegal immigrants who succeeded in avoiding Border Patrol interdiction.
We must all remember that it is not the apprehension numbers that are most important to American security. It is the wave of human smugglers who successfully enter the United States that is the cause for worry.
Apprehensions reflect the real danger
Apprehension numbers are the numbers that are used to calculate total human smuggling. It is generally assumed that only 25% of all border intruders are apprehended. The rest enter the United States.
Adding the under and over performance figures from above into the data, the records suggest that 11,314,836 illegals successfully breached American borders since 2006. That is the number that must be elevated into the national discussion. Few would argue that such a huge number can be spun to represent any success.
The Truth is not Glowing
The human and drug smuggling story is not a happy one. The human numbers suggest a vast national dilemma, but the drug numbers are a completely different horror story. While it is more palatable to concentrate on diminishing human apprehension numbers, administration public reports fail to mention the data that is accruing on the drug side of the problem. What Americans should know is that the drug side of the problem is worsening.
The war on the border spans political parties. It is a complicated and dangerous affair. Americans don’t want to hear speech reflecting political posturing. Americans can make their own decisions of whom or what to blame. Americans want leaders who stand firm and tell the truth. Perhaps, more importantly today, Americans desperately seek leaders who understand truth when they see it.
The representation that the Border is safer than it has been in 20 years is a falsehood. Is the target of success the first apprehension number to fall under the half million mark in 40 years, or is it the 11,314,836 illegal immigrants who successfully evaded border authorities and entered the United States since the end of 2006? What objective leader would want to claim either, but . . . when has the border discussion been objective?
Napolitano and Homeland Security leadership performance
Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the sum of Border Patrol performance in the model reflect the effectiveness of Homeland Security leadership since 2007? After all, implicit in the message of the Secretary, national security is the sum of all changes, improvements and technical additions, extraction of inefficiencies, intelligence enhancements, and insightful administrative leadership that the agency has brought to bear on the border.
Assuming that scorecard is any and all improvements that can be measured apart from the background trend line of apprehensions since 2007, the model yielded the data from which to calculate that result. The under and over performance measures of Border Patrol results were defined and quantified for 2007 through 2010. What do (27,388 – 42,330 + 67,154 – 52,212) equal, and . . . could that be the sum of the contributions by “Big Sis” and the Homeland Security professional cadre of leadership?
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “In order to beat “the best border security results in the last 20 years”, the model indicates that an unemployment rate of 10% is going to be necessary . . . Oooh . . . who is going to be the winner in that deal?