Washington Post Bungles Immigration Fact Check


Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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The Washington Post fact checked a few immigration claims by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday, but ran into a roadblock when looking at “in absentia” rates for illegal aliens.

The DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent out a fact sheet to reporters last week attempting to dispel myths and rumors about illegal immigration. One “myth” the EOIR seeks to dismantle is “Few aliens fail to attend their immigration court proceedings.” (RELATED: Washington Post Fact Checker Inflates Trump Falsehoods)

As the EIOR explains, 44% of non-detained immigration cases end with an “in absentia” order. That means nearly half of released illegal aliens do not show up for their court hearings and are ordered to be removed by a judge.

WaPo, however, does gymnastics to claim the EOIR is “cherry-picking data.”

The article accuses the EOIR of being misleading about the “in absentia” rate because they do not include cases where aliens were detained prior to their hearings. Of course, aliens who are detained have to show up.

“Only non-detained aliens are potentially subject to an in absentia order of removal,” EOIR spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly explained to WaPo. “By definition, a detained alien generally would not be subject to an in absentia removal order because the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for ensuring all aliens in its custody attend hearings. Consequently, including detained aliens in a measure of the in absentia rate would present a misleading picture of how many aliens attend hearings.”

Still, WaPo raised an issue with the fact that the EOIR did not note that the “in absentia” rate for all asylum cases was just 11% in 2017. But all of the asylum cases would necessarily include aliens who were detained prior to their hearings, so that rate does not give an accurate picture of how many aliens are released and then fail to show up.

“Asked why EOIR officials focused on non-detained cases, Mattingly said the asylum category includes some immigrants who are in custody and unable to skip their hearings, though she did not break down what share of the total they represent,” WaPo writes.

WaPo fact checked three other claims from the fact sheet, but doesn’t give EOIR the clear on the “in absentia” rates. In their Pinocchio rating, WaPo writes, “Taken individually, each of the four claims we analyzed relies on a dubious read of the data or tells only part of the story, which tips the scale toward Two Pinocchios. The effect is more pernicious when considering all four claims together, which is an argument for Three Pinocchios.”

Even after WaPo claims the data is “dubious,” they admit it is “reasonable” to leave detained migrants out of “in absentia” rates, raising the question of why they fact checked the claim in the first place.

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