unauthorized immigrants only with those with whom it contracts to perform confidential analyses. Such analysis comes at high monetary cost to DHS and is rarely subject to peer review in the manner typical of academic research. There is a large community of scholars actively studying illegal immigration. Providing this community with access to the ENFORCE database would likely produce dozens of new academic studies that would be available to DHS at no charge. Because most of these studies would be subject to peer review by academic journals, they would arguably be of higher quality than the consulting reports that DHS currently acquires. The wide dissemination of data (along with the integration of data from surveys with data from administrative records) is also a recommended practice for federal statistical agencies, which have developed a number of procedures for providing research data access while protecting the confidentiality of the information (National Research Council, 2009).
A further benefit of putting individual-level apprehensions data in the public domain is that this could potentially improve the quality of data collection by EMIF-N and any future surveys that target individuals who have been apprehended by USBP. DHS’s administrative data presumably represent the full universe of apprehended migrants. As noted in Chapter 3, these data would be valuable in efforts, such as EMIF-N, to survey and estimate flows of such repatriated migrants. In particular, detailed data on the number and basic demographic characteristics of migrants repatriated, by time, date, and port of entry of return, would provide an independent measurement of this return flow that would be extremely helpful in both designing the survey’s sampling frame and correctly weighting estimates.
Some in DHS have expressed concern that restricting the release of administrative data is necessary because information contained in the files is law enforcement sensitive. However, the number of apprehended individuals subject to criminal prosecution for terrorism or the trafficking of drugs, arms, or people appears to be very small. Records on these individuals could be excised from the USBP apprehensions database before their release to the public, without affecting the value of these data for analytical purposes. Even though the smugglers of illegal aliens already appear to have relatively accurate information on the rates of apprehension and successful entry into the United States, important operational information could nevertheless be safeguarded through broad geographic identifiers that link, for example, to USBP sectors rather than individual USBP stations. Others have argued that releasing administrative data risks violating the privacy of individuals who are apprehended. However, it is simple to transform individual identifiers in the USBP apprehensions database in a manner that would make the risk to privacy very low. For many research purposes, individual-level data would also be unnecessary. It would be sufficient to have aggregate data on the frequency of apprehensions for individuals broken