Lies, damned lies, and statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase of of unknown origin that was popularized by Mark Twain.

It is an appropriate title for this post, which results from the interchange of emails between myself and a TdJ reader who shall remain anonymous. The reader wrote me privately to question the veracity of the statistics I posted on the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the US (1,854 from 2012 to September 2015). Here is the email that the TdJ reader sent me:

Generally speaking, one cannot trust anything this [Obama] Administration says about refugees (or anything else). They give small numbers and focus on individual issues of the moment. The real number is over 100,000 since 2012 and much higher than that since 2000.

As Trump says, we have lost control of our borders, and the American people resent it. It is after all their country, and their wishes should be respected.

TdJ reader cites Fox News as his source of information:

Joseph J. Kolb, “As lawmakers clash over refugees, Syrian immigration quietly tops 100,000 since 2012“, Fox News, 16 December 2015.

Reading the column carefully, it becomes clear that it contains no evidence that the United States has admitted more than 100,000 Syrian refugees. In fact, there is no evidence even of 100,000 entrants (including businessmen, students and tourists, some with multiple entries), as the 100,000 figure includes 42,303 residents with Syrian passports who received green cards (permanent residence) or became US citizens during this period. This is double counting, triple counting and worse!

Relevant extracts from the column are copied and pasted below. Note that government is the source of all statistics repackaged by Mr Kolb. is unable to provide ‘secret’ immigration figures, if such data exist.

A proposal to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States has ignited a bitter debate in Washington, but more than 10 times that number of people from the embattled country have quietly come to America since 2012, according to figures obtained by

Some 102,313 Syrians were granted admission to the U.S. as legal permanent residents or through programs including work, study and tourist visas from 2012 through August of this year ….

Numbers obtained from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection show 60,010 Syrian visa holders have entered the U.S. since 2012, including 16,245 this year through August. Additional numbers provided by a Congressional source showed another [sic] 42,303 Syrians were granted citizenship or green cards during the same period.

Joseph J. Kolb, “As lawmakers clash over refugees, Syrian immigration quietly tops 100,000 since 2012“, Fox News, 16 December 2015.


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