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Friday, August 26, 2005

IMMIGRATION: TRAC Study Shows Value of CARR, FOIA to Bloggers Who Want to Get Beyond the Spinmeisters

Kudos to RedState.org's California Yankee, who notes the latest Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse data analysis showing the federal government significantly increased its prosecution of illegal aliens last year.

The TRAC study that caught California Yankee's eye found a 65 percent jump in cases brought by federal authorities in 2004. Most of the big increase resulted from a surge - 345 percent! - in cases brought in South Texas as a result of a newly aggressive approach taken by U.S. District Attorney Michael Shelby in Houston.

Notes California Yankee about the surge:

"The increase in illegal alien prosecutions stemmed mostly from the 345 percent increase in Shelby's district alone. Absent the South Texas numbers, the increase would be a mere 5 percent for regions adjoining the southwestern border with Mexico, and 11 percent for the rest of the United States.
"27,000 prosecuted out of 1.1 million illegal aliens arrested along the border leaves little room for hope. Nevertheless the increase in prosecutions in the South Texas District offers a slim hope that if we ever become truly dedicated to controlling the nations borders, it might be possible. Give us more officials like Attorney Shelby. Lots more."

There is another point of significance to this story: the TRAC study is based on data that is publicly available from the Department of Homeland Security (usually via a Freedom of Information Act request) and the analysis required to determine basic trends such as the increase in prosecutions is easily done with elementary spreadsheet skills and Microsoft Excel.

The TRAC project is an example of Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting, which is among the most powerful tools not yet discovered by the Blogosphere. The Media Bloggers Association is hosting its second-ever Database 101/201 CARR Boot Camp Sept. 23-24 at the National Press Club.

The first was May 5-6 at BlogNashville and was attended by 14 very enthusiastic bloggers. These CARR boot camps are hosted by The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, which I have the honor of directing. I'm also a member of the MBA's board of directors.

Also participating in the Nashville event as an instructor was David Kamin of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. Joining the usual Heritage crew of instructors at the September event will be Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, the AFL-CIO's think tank.

Attendance at the CARR boot camps is free and there are a limited number of fellowships available to assist with travel and hotel expenses. You can view the agenda here. Enrollment info here. Hurry because enrollment is limited to the first dozen enrollees.