Trump’s acting chief of Homeland Security has framed the immigration crisis as a flood of “fake families” coming across the border with the help of drug cartels and human trafficking rings.
“These increased border numbers, and specifically the dramatic increase in family units, are a direct response to the weaknesses in our laws that are well-known and exploited by smugglers,” the nominee, Kevin McAleenan, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. He even called advertisements for child smuggling organizations “ubiquitous in Central America.”
But there’s a problem with McAleenan’s testimony: Much of it was based on creative readings of misleading data.
McAleenan said that ICE identified more than 4,800 fraudulent families — but he didn’t specify over what time period. If McAleenan was citing figures from last month, those “fake families” comprise less than 5% of the more than 88,000 families apprehended along the border in May. And Border Patrol has apprehended nearly 330,000 families during the current fiscal year, which began last October. In that case, the 4,800 families McAleenan cited would represent a little over 1% of all family arrivals.
McAleenan also didn’t clarify whether any of the fraudulent family units included groups with a child traveling with a relative other than their parent, like a cousin, aunt, uncle, or grandparent. But he did refer to a DNA testing pilot program that attempted to weed out fake families arriving at the border.
McAleenan said the program, which ran for three days and involved 109 families, found 17 cases of fraud: “a 15% return.” But his own testimony suggested it’s not accurate to claim that 15% of the families crossing the border are fake. Those 109 families weren’t randomly selected, he later said. Instead, Border Patrol agents specifically screened family units they suspected were fake.
And it’s not just fake families taking advantage of the system at the border, according to McAleenan. He also repeatedly said that the families who legally cross the border don’t show up to their court hearings.
By Gaby del Valle for VICE NEWS
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