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As a furloughed scientist, I thought it worthwhile to use my PhD skills to look at evidence for the president’s claims of a national security crisis & whether his desire for a wall is an adequate justification for a government #shutdown that has cut off pay for 800,000 Americans.
What every American should be asking themselves right now is this: what is the evidence that our border is so unsafe that it constitutes a crisis and the need to #BuildTheWall? Evidence that would be needed to support such a claim are that...
(A) there has been a dramatic increase in people crossing our border over time, (B) there is an increase in crime with an increase in immigration, and immigrants commit more crimes than those within our borders, and/or (C) current strategies for border security are ineffective.
So what do the data show?
There is absolutely no evidence for (A). In fact, the opposite is supported – unauthorized immigration rates actually slowed down between 2010 and 2016, when it fell to its lowest level in decades (1). Overall, the population of unauthorized immigrants shrank by 13%...
between 2007 and 2016 in the U.S. As of January 2015, there were an estimated 10.7 to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States (1, 2). That’s 3.3% to 3.7% of the total U.S. population, which was 328,337,383 on this very day in 2015.
For perspective, the current unemployment rate for people 16 years of age and over is 3.9% (3), greater than the number of illegal immigrants residing in our country. (Side bar: how is *this* not a national crisis?)
In looking at the data for total apprehensions of illegal aliens across multiple years by our border patrol, these numbers have also declined (4). Because I’m a scientist and love data, I acquired the raw data and made you a graph so you could see the trends for yourself.
So to conclude, there is no evidence for (A). What about (B)?
Studies on the subject have found no immigrant-crime link. NONE. This revelation comes from a study that attempted to correlate undocumented immigration and violent crime in all 50 states and DC using multiple data sources at the state level from 1990-2014.
Their robust analyses reveal the opposite relationship: increases in the undocumented immigrant population are generally associated with significantly *lower* rates of violence (5). Other studies reveal that illegal immigrants have *lower* conviction and arrest rates...
relative to native-born Americans in the U.S. In my home state of #Texas alone, a study of 2015 data found that the homicide rate for illegal immigrants was 16% *below* that of native-born Americans; for all criminal convictions,...
illegal and legal immigrants had criminal conviction rates 50% and 66% *below* that of native-born Americans, respectively (6). Together these findings undermine statements that undocumented immigrants are criminals and/or are bringing crime into the United States.
In looking at statistics from the U.S. Border and Customs Protection, two things are clear: an increase in funding (7) & an increase in staffing agents (8) over time is correlated with reduced rates of apprehension of illegal aliens. I made you more figures so you could see this.
So if you are concerned about keeping these numbers low, these observations suggest continuing to fund this agency and maintaining a steady number of agents on the ground may be an effective way to do so.
An alternative explanation is that there are fewer people crossing our border over time (which is supported by the aforementioned studies above). Regardless, these results do not support (C) and instead suggest that the border security strategies currently in place are effective.
In sum, there is NO EVIDENCE that there is a border crisis that requires building a wall. The number of immigrants coming into the US are decreasing, and they are not causing any upticks in crime. A wall is an unnecessary feature and would be a total waste of taxpayer money.

Your neighborhood scientist born and raised two hours away from the US Southern Border in Texas who is now on day 59 without pay.
Here are my sources:
(1) “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2015” from the Office of Immigration Statistics, the US Department of Homeland Security
(2) “Facts on U.S. Immigrants, 2016” from the Pew Research Center
(3) “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Department of Labor
(4) “U.S. Border Patrol Monthly Apprehensions (FY 2000 – FY 2017)” from the Stats and Summaries page of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(5) Light, Michael T. and T. Y. Miller (2018). Does undocumented immigration increase violent crime? Criminology 56(2): 370-401.
(6) Nowrasteh, A (2018). “Criminal Immigrants in Texas: Illegal Immigrant Conviction and Arrest Rates for Homicide, Sex Crimes, Larceny, and Other Crimes." Immigration Research and Policy Brief No. 4, Cato Institute.
(7) “The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security” from the American Immigration Council. January 2017.
(8) “U.S. Border Patrol Fiscal Year Staffing Statistics (FY 1992 – FY 2017)” from the Stats and Summaries page of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Correction corner: The U.S. population was 319,800,625 on January 25, 2015, so the estimated upper limit of the number of illegal immigrants is 3.75%, not 3.7% as originally stated. Here’s my source: “U.S. and World Population Clock” from the United States Census Bureau
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