The left-leaning Migration Policy Institute released on May 4 two reports aimed at convincing Congress and the public that the border with Mexico is under control and further resources, such as new construction is unnecessary. One report is termed “A Revolving Door No More?” which cites official data showing that recidivism [the illegal return of deported illegal aliens] has dropped by 80 percent. The other is “Advances in U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement.”

The two reports and a panel presentation on the reports, led by former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner, were aimed a painting a picture of a secure border. But that depiction is misleading.

The first report relies on responses of a sample of deported Mexicans to a questionnaire administered by Mexican authorities which asked whether the deportee intended to try to return to the United States. The data indicated that about half (49%) of the deportees said they intended to try again. That is a major reduction in that answer from an earlier period, and it suggests that there has been a positive impact from ending the practice of simply putting apprehended Mexican illegal entrants back across the border and instead formally deporting them. But, if half of the deportees still say they intend to sneak back, much additional deterrence is needed.

The second report relies on data from a program of the U.S. immigration authorities that found a reduction in recidivism (return illegal entry after deportation). The trouble with this data is that it was criticized by the independent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for only comparing deportations and re-arrests that occur in the same year as a case of recidivism. The GAO pointed out that if a person who was deported and managed to sneak back into the country and stayed for more than a year before being deported again, that person would not be treated as a recidivist in the data. That meant that the rate of recidivism in the data was understated.

Rather than the message that MPI tried to project that the border is secure and nothing more needs to be done, the data used in generating these reports clearly show that more needs to be done to secure the border against illegal entry.