A new way to measure the border crisis


A new way to measure the border crisis

A NEW WAY TO MEASURE THE BORDER CRISIS. It is sometimes said that the crisis of illegal crossers on the U.S.-Mexico border “can’t get any worse.” Well, it can. And now it has.

Previously unheard-of numbers of migrants are crossing into the United States, confident that they, or at least most of them, will be allowed to stay in the country, whether they have a legitimate claim to asylum or not. (The vast majority do not.) Border Patrol forces are overwhelmed, as are the private organizations that assist the immigrants with the aim of keeping them in the U.S.

If you want to know what is happening on the border, you need to start with two journalists: Fox News’s Bill Melugin, whose Twitter feed and reports have been filled with videos of dystopian scenes of immigrants massing around campfires on the U.S. side of the shallow Rio Grande, and the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli, whose reporting goes inside the administration’s weak and inadequate response to an unprecedented crisis of President Joe Biden’s own making.

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On Monday, Melugin tweeted this: “The chief of U.S. Border Patrol reports there have been over 16,000 migrant encounters at the border in the last 48 hours. That’s an average of 8,000 per day. Former Obama DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson once said 1,000 in a day would be a ‘crisis.’ We are eight times that right now.”

For her part, Giaritelli reported on internal government documents showing that Border Patrol facilities in El Paso had 4,500 migrants in custody just on Saturday — and that is one of nine sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Border Patrol is flying immigrants on government-operated aircraft to other lesser-impacted areas on the border for people to be processed and released or expelled and ease the burden on El Paso,” Giaritelli wrote.

Soon there might not be any “lesser-impacted areas.” In a few days, the Biden administration will end Title 42, the Trump-era rule that allowed federal authorities to turn back many illegal immigrants for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19. When that happens, observers expect the crush to become even worse.

The reason for all this is the Biden administration’s implicit message that those who cross illegally into the U.S. will be allowed to stay. Would-be immigrants around the world have gotten the message and have rushed to the border in the last two years.

Now, we have a new way to measure how that is working. This year, the conservative Heritage Foundation undertook to find where migrants who cross illegally into the U.S. eventually end up. Here is what researchers did: They used geofencing technology to find the number of cellphones, no names attached, that were present in certain places along the border. Then they traced the movement of those phones from the border to various places across the U.S. They did not publish the specific destination of each phone but rather tracked them by congressional district — 435 distinct areas across the country, each with a population of around 750,000. That might be just one state — Wyoming, for example, is one congressional district. Or it might be a big city — there are nine districts in the city of Chicago. The Heritage researchers tracked each phone from the border moving to a congressional district somewhere in the U.S.

The project focused on NGOsnongovernmental organizations that are often funded by churches or liberal groups that favor allowing virtually unlimited numbers of illegal border crossers to stay permanently in the U.S. One of the NGOs examined was Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which is in San Juan, Texas. In the month of January 2022, the Heritage researchers found nearly 3,400 unique mobile devices on the premises of the organization. In the months to come, they found those phones had moved to 433 congressional districts across the country — nearly every district in the nation.

Then Heritage examined 13 other organizations that were located close to the border, among them the International Rescue Committee, Annunciation House, Mission: Border Hope, Jewish Family Services, and others. The researchers found more than 5,000 individual devices at those locations in January 2022 and later traced them to 434 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts.

Then the researchers picked 20 other NGO facilities, most of them in Texas and other Southwestern states. They found more than 22,000 specific phones in those locations in January 2022 and later traced them to 431 congressional districts around the country.

Where did they go? Heritage found that the largest numbers of illegal crossers stayed in Texas, at least in the short run. For example, the biggest single number of phones, 11,001, was found in the 30th District of Texas, which covers much of Dallas. The next-largest number, 10,749 phones, was found in the 33rd District, which is also in Dallas-Fort Worth. And the third-largest number, 10,663, was found in the 32nd District, also in Dallas. Together, that is 32,423 phones associated with illegal border crossers just in three districts in the Dallas area.

The immigrants, aided by the NGOs, also ventured away from Texas, starting with the closest states. They went to districts in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, and Illinois. And then everywhere else — a map of the paths of illegal border crossers looks like a map of the interstate highway system, extending to Washington in the Northwest, Southern California in the Southwest, Florida in the Southeast, and Maine in the Northeast. In other words, everywhere.

The Heritage team does not claim that the data are definitive. They have a lot more work to do. Right now, they’re going through the information to establish more precise geographic locations for the phones. But they have already drawn some preliminary conclusions. “While the Biden administration caused the crisis and allows it to persist, they are not the only party responsible for facilitating this crisis,” Heritage wrote. “Non-government organizations (NGOs) have played a substantial role in exacerbating the crisis by actively helping process and transport tens of thousands of illegal aliens into the interior of the United States.”

The NGOs’ work is paid for, in part, by taxpayer dollars. “These organizations apply for, and receive, taxpayer money to provide processing and transportation services and infrastructure to facilitate the migration of illegal aliens into the interior of the country,” Heritage wrote. “The investigation confirms that the Biden border crisis affects all of America and that NGOs are playing a central role in the mass resettlement of illegal aliens in the United States. Worse, this flow of illegal immigration helps enable cartels to bring terrorists, criminals, and deadly drugs like fentanyl into the United States.”

This process has gone on with virtually no attention from the press. Now, the sheer number of crossers has caused one big outlet, the New York Times, to take notice, with a story on the crisis in El Paso. But most of the press, most of the time, look the other way. Recently, Fox News’s Bill Melugin, asked about coverage on the other national TV news networks, said, “I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen them down here in my 19 months of covering this.” 

Now, with the demise of Title 42, even the nothing-to-see-here news organizations might have to admit that there is an enormous crisis going on right here in the United States.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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