Juking the stats at ICE


Hats off to the Center for Investigative Reporting for a great piece on the number games Immigration and Customs Enforcement played to meet its goals for fiscal 2010:

But in reaching [a record]392,862 deportations, [ICE] included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics. ICE also ran a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than ever before, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that, without the program, would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol.

[…] “It’s not unusual for any administration to get the numbers they need by reaching into their bag of tricks to boost figures,” said Neil Clark, who retired as the Seattle field office director in late June, adding that in the 12 years he spent in management he saw the Bush and Clinton administrations do similar things.

But at a news conference Oct. 6, ICE Director John T. Morton said that no unusual practices were used to break the previous year’s mark.

“When the secretary tells you that the numbers are at an all-time high, that’s straight, on the merits, no cooking of the books,” Morton said, referring to his boss, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “It’s what happened.”

The Post’s headline refers to what they did as “unusual methods.” But anyone who’s seen the HBO show The Wire — hands down the best depiction of our bureaucratic failings ever put on television — will recognize this as a textbook example of “juking the stats.”

Juking the stats is a way to fudge the numbers to make an organization look like it’s doing better than it actually is. That could mean a police department codes an aggravated assault as a simple assault, and boom, violent crime is down. Or a school could teach kids the answers to specific questions on standardized tests, and ta-da! test scores are up. Or it could mean the government’s vital immigration agency lumps deportations from the previous year in with this year’s stats to trumpet a broken enforcement record.

As cop-turned-teacher Roland Pryzbylewski said on The Wire:

Juking the stats: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. We juke the stats and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.


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