Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something to Do to Earn a Slice of Pie Even Though You Suck, Or Journalism: How to Slack By and Avoid Math

"The agency [the Department of Homeland Security] has spent more than $85 million over the past eight years to transport Mexican illegal immigrants far beyond the border in a humanitarian effort aimed at saving lives by deterring migrants from making another dangerous border crossing."


"Since 2004, the government has repatriated 102,201 migrants to Mexico under the program..."

$85,000,000 divided by 102,201 is $843 and a few cents.

The Arizona Republic feature dated Aug. 21, 2001 1200 a.m., by Daniel Gonzalez, goes on to state:

"Records obtained by The Arizona Republic show that within months, hundreds of the migrants flown back to Mexico - each at a cost of more than $500 - are caught crossing illegally again." "More than $500?" Really. I do not like that. We're out more than $300 each. It must have gone somewhere. I say there's a story in this.

Then I looked at the cost of one-way flights from, say for example Tucson. According to Expedia, US Airways 2835 goes out at 5:00 p.m. today for $426.74. (Some days are cheaper.) Since it connects in Phoenix before going to Mexico City it could pick up more people there for an even less expensive ticket each.

Rut-roh. We're short a few more bucks here now. But perhaps there's an explanation.

You see, after arriving in Mexico City the returned immigrants have bus tickets to take them out into their home towns. That could account for a few dollars/pesos, and then maybe there's some hidden "processing fees." Would that get us up to an individual cost of $843 for each person so deported? It does not seem add up. Not without a proper accounting.

The article itself does not address the discrepancy in the numbers. It emptily acknowledges only this:

"But some humanitarian groups say it is a waste of money because migrant deaths have continued to rise, and the Government Accountability Office has been critical of the lack of accountability." Lack of accountability? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Well, that's it then. Nothing else to see here folks. Move along now.

"These are my views on the matter: the law is the law and immigrants who cross into our country illegally from Mexico will be apprehended and flown to Mexico City as soon as can be arranged, all at a profit of $300 each for me. Me me me. Just me."

(That was just me saying that.)

Of course "we have an illegal immigration problem." At least as it appears in this Arizona Republic article, it's a money-maker. And it's been graciously incentivized! The more illegal immigrants, the more flights to Mexico City, each multiplied by $300. 23,384 people just last year alone (though a record year.) Multiplied by $300? A cool $7 million; $5 million maybe after payroll and expenses. Even at half that price it's a solid business plan and growth has been the recent trend.

Nah. I have to be wrong. Maybe a bus pass from Mexico City to El Este Podunkalupe does cost $300. What with the cost of fuel and all, and Mexico is a big country.

Of course there could be an explanation, a documented and legitimate money trail that would make all the math questions go away. But conspiracy theorists nor journalists need to dig into that to make a living, apparently. That's my real problem here. Numbers are not peanuts. You cannot be allergic to them. Phones all have calculator apps now so journalists have no excuse; no excuse at all, to gloss the numbers at the heart of the story. My guess is that money goes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to cover their costs for each detainee. A bus ride to the Tucson airport and the price of a fast meal or two. A night in the paddy.

And then a very interesting little slice of the pie that just seems to disappear somewhere, I think. Like a vapor or an apparition. But that's just the little link in the chain.

But why are we paying for all this, anyways? That's the big link that attaches the anchor to the rest of the heavy chain. Would it have taken all day for Gonzales to call staff at the Mexican consulate in Tucson and the government program providers in Mexico City to ask them why we are paying for transporting their own citizens back to them? We negotiated this with Mexico? Somebody got their axle greased. At least there's that. Another missed story line. In modern U.S. journalism this is regarded as "conventional wisdom:" seeing neither forest nor trees.

Thus spoke Percival, Dark Guardian of the Clawrovian Gates, Beyond Which Few Survive.

One more little thing from the article:

"The entire cost of transportation is borne by the U.S. government." That's us, folks. Unless you happen to have contacts in the government, a charter airline company in Tucson, and a Mexico City bus company, you're losing money on this one.

Oh wait. There's a second one more little thing from the article:

"The government is expected to spend $9 million to $11 million on the program this year, ICE officials have said."

I don't think so. Remember, it's incentivized. Personally I assure you it will cost *at least* $11 million and probably much, much more. I'd like to see an article on that in about a year. They either overspend or they don't. Either one would be an awesome story.

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