Hoo boy: Media outlets withdraw claim that the U.S. has 100,000 migrant children in custody

I somehow missed the original story, which was quite the bombshell when it appeared last night. The United States has a hundred thousand migrant children detained right now? The population of a large-ish American city, all in custody as we speak?


The border crush earlier this year was bad but it’s almost unfathomable how bad it would need to have gotten to generate a six-figure population of illegals and asylum-seekers among minors alone.

Imagine how large the adult migrant population in custody must be!

The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday…

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers – we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the (U.S.),” [Manfred] Nowak told a news briefing.

Good lord. I didn’t think we remotely had the capacity to house that many children all at once. It came as a shock to others as well, like HuffPost reporter Jennifer Bendery, who was retweeted more than 6,000 times for this since-deleted item:

Some righties were suspicious. Jeryl Bier noticed the numbers yesterday and tried to make them work by comparing them to publicly available data about migrant detentions, but couldn’t:


Beyond the numbers, how could it conceivably be true that the United States has a higher rate of children in detention than, say, China, whose mass internment of Uighur Muslims was given fresh attention this week by a major expose in the NYT? Estimates of how many Uighurs are locked away in Chinese concentration camps run as high as two million. If only a quarter of them are minors, that’s still 500,000 children.

Something smelled fishy. And today, the source of the smell was identified:

An outside expert working with the U.N. human rights office has corrected a figure he cited claiming that over 100,000 children are being held in migrant detention in the United States…

[O]n Tuesday, he told The AP that figure was drawn from a U.N. refugee agency report citing data from 2015, the latest figure his team could find. That was before U.S. President Donald Trump, whose policies on migration have drawn criticism, was elected.

Nowak also said the figure of over 100,000 referred to the cumulative number of migrant children held in detention at any point during that year, whether “for two days or eight months or the whole year,” not all simultaneously.


The 100,000 figure isn’t even based on current data. It’s an estimate based on … Obama-era detentions of minors. And it’s not the number who are *currently* being held in federal custody. It’s the number who passed through the system at *any* point in the relevant period, even if their stay was brief.

Want to guess how Trump’s numbers compare to the 2015 Obama numbers? According to the AP, data released by the feds this month lists total detentions of minors over the past year at 69,550. Trump’s administration has held fewer kids for the period than O’s did. Which isn’t the only immigration metric in which the “America First” Republican has been less aggressive than the Hopenchange Democrat.

Gabe Malor knew from his experience with immigration law that the AP’s original 100,000 number was obviously bogus but that didn’t stop the media from declaring it Too Good To Check as a searing indictment of Trump’s border hawkery:


At least the AP published a second story correcting the record after gullibly biting on the first one. AFP and Reuters simply flagged the original story as “withdrawn” and were done with it. Who needs the truth when you have the Larger Truth?

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 15, 2024