Data Debunks False Narratives About The Border

Conservative pundits and elected officials have been pushing a “border crisis” narrative that lays blame exclusively on Biden. There’s just one problem: The facts say otherwise.

E. Rosalie
Mar 24 · 6 min read

Border Surge: Blame eagerly tossed around but little in the way of evidence-based discussion

A great deal of disinformation on the border situation has gone out and we’re hearing wildly disparate stories. Disinformation related to this subject is at an absolute fever-pitch right now with coordinated messaging, doctored videos, and misleading claims from even the highest of offices.

On one hand, we have people making apocalyptic claims, and on the other, we have people saying there is no situation. Neither is true. We place this under threat, not because the border situation necessarily is one, but because we have people who perceive that it is to an extreme and that can be dangerous.

Here’s some context because the headlines differ so much it’s hard to believe they’re covering the same subject. Rather than telling you what to think, let’s look at the numbers and examine some concrete realities the US must face.

People at the US-Mexico Border

The graph of data from US Customs and Border Patrol shows that while we have a situation that requires attention, there have been far higher numbers in very recent history.

A crisis is a term that requires:

  1. Something unforeseeable
  2. Potential harm
  3. Short time to make decision
  4. Public and leadership perception that it is a crisis

The definition is subjective. So is it a crisis? That’s up to you to decide.

“Even if you get a sea-to-shining-sea wall, then people would just build ladders, ramps, and other ways — tunnels — in order to get around it,” Bier said. “It’s just not reflective of the reality, which is people will come if they want to come.”

Rather than even approaching an ideological objection, most experts’ issue with the wall is it’s a waste of money and changes nothing — even if you were in favor of the purported goal. Facts are friends; they help us do better.

The funds would be far more helpful if directed toward policies that work and help to remedy the problems in South America, specifically the ones in which the US has direct culpability. We add this because of headlines from outlets attributing border surges to something in the United States.

The number of people showing up at the border has to do with the situation in South America.

Some headlines have assumed surges are the result of the current President, but the data show it affects this little.

Border encounters started to rise in October of 2020, with an upward trend beginning in April of 2020 inclining into 2021.

The refugee ceiling has been low for three decades

HHS commissioned a study in 2017 on the cost of refugees to the United States. The study found a significant return on investment but was never publicized. The study found refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state, and local taxes.

The final report stated refugees cost the government $3300 per year versus $2500 for the average American but omitted any return on investment, which is unusual for a cost-benefit analysis. No one disputes that they may cost more initially, only that in the long term we see an economic benefit.

When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives. It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus.”

Immigration has net benefits. The fact that it has some costs is not a reason to bar it, but rather to manage it.

George W. Bush Presidential Center

We Have A Problem That We Need to Face

The US is the least family-friendly country in the developed world. Notably having no guaranteed paid leave, expensive health insurance and services, expensive childcare, and the cost of education has risen at 8x the rate of wages, which have not kept up with inflation.

Opposition to everything from extending the length of public education to raising wages in step with inflation have been blocked, but we will need to further incentivize child-bearing or risk dropping below population replacement, meaning everything loses value — houses, everything.

Even if we successfully incentivize it, we will still have a declining population problem, so it’s important that we understand what has driven that decline. If we get the cause wrong, we get the solution wrong too.

Legalized abortion and hormonal contraception do not appear to be driving the lower fertility rate in the United States.

  • Legislation in the US appears to have had no influence on the rates, especially when looking at the long-term picture in the US.
  • We are doing a deep dive into those birth rates to explain how we know the rates aren’t related to either legalization or restriction of abortion and contraception. Subscribe to ensure you don’t miss it.

Bottom Line: The US birthrate has fallen low enough that we might see economic decline down the road.

  • Unlike many other countries, we resolve this issue by accepting new citizens who sometimes require an investment before going on to pay more in taxes than is ever invested in them.
  • Immigration is a viable solution, perhaps the only solution.

We must think critically about this issue that affects all Americans and root our decisions in sound evidence rather than emotion.

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Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

E. Rosalie

Written by

Public health biologist studying at Johns Hopkins | Science writer & artist | Views reflect me alone | Subscribe @

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

E. Rosalie

Written by

Public health biologist studying at Johns Hopkins | Science writer & artist | Views reflect me alone | Subscribe @

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

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