Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Immigration - Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Where did the 11 million (now 12 in many reports) number for illegal aliens come from? I finally found a reference that clarified the source. First I had to read John Fund's WSJ editorial piece concerning the dreadful danger facing the Republicans if they don't...well they're in dreadful danger at any rate. Within his piece there was a reference to an absolutely asinine proposal by Republican Congressmen to abrogate federal responsibility by delegating authority to issue visas to private companies. It was bad enough that the State Department was shoveling out visas to any Saudi with a Master Card but at least we could hold the government responsible. In reading through Pence's paean to privatization the 11-12 million number popped up and lo and behold, it comes from Pew Research. This is the very same Pew Research that devoted a great deal of time, effort and money to convincing Congress of the absolute necessity of passing McCain-Feingold. Ryan Sager dissected Pew's admitted (by Treglia, at any rate) role in creating the illusion that Americans were 'deeply concerned' about campaign finance reform.

When we turn to the Pew Report from whence the 11 million number springs we are treated to
Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population or defines their demographic characteristics based on specific enumeration. There is, however, a widely-accepted methodology for estimating the size and certain characteristics, such as age and national origins, of the undocumented population based on official data. This methodology essentially subtracts the estimated legal-immigrant population from the total foreign-born population and treats the residual as a source of data on the unauthorized migrant population (Passel, Van Hook, and Bean 2004). The estimates reported here use this methodology with data from the March 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, is best known as the source for monthly unemployment statistics. Every March both the sample size and the questionnaire of the CPS are augmented to produce the Annual Social and Economic Supplement which provides additional data on several additional subjects including the foreign-born population. As of March 2004, there were an estimated 10.3 million unauthorized migrants living in the United States. A comparison to past estimates derived with the same methodology shows that the undocumented population has grown rapidly in recent years. There were 8.4 million unauthorized migrants living in the United States in April 2000 according to estimates derived from Census 2000 (Passel, Van Hook, and Bean 2004). Thus, average annual growth over the 4-year period since 2000 was about 485,000 per year. Assuming this rate of growth held steady, the best estimate for March 2005 points to a figure of somewhat less than 11 million for the number of undocumented residents.

Sounds pretty impressive and factual, doesn't it? You take a starting number of 8.4 million and add (4 X 485,000) and, voila, even the math-is-hard crowd can get to 10.3 million in 2004 and then add another 970,000 to get over 11 million in 2006. Plus the report is very careful to note that "Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population" so I suppose there is no reason to check any other statistics...but, heck, I like statistics and there might be something that was (unintentionally, to be sure) overlooked. Now, who might actually try and track the illegal alien population, hmmm....

The INS? Why yes, yes they do, right here. How do the numbers compare? Well, the INS estimate of the illegal alien population in January, 2000 is 7 million using what appears to be a reasonable method of analysis. They also use a rate of 350,000 per year net increase versus the Pew number of 485,000 per year which using the same formula that Pew uses gives a 2006 total of 9.1 million.

Why would Pew play with the numbers? Why do stores price items at $9.99 rather than $10? Exaggeration and puffery are staples of salesmanship and Pew is definitely peddling. Pew and the other "public interest" groups involved in this are repeating the methods that gave us McCain-Feingold - and the 527's that go with it. Our politicians, bless their craven hearts and pea brains, are fixing to give us an immigration bill that will rival McCain-Feingold both in complexity and in stupidity.

There is nothing inherently wrong with our current immigration laws. Increasing money allocated to enforcement would cut the 350,000 number over time. There is no reason for an amnesty nor is there any reason that a visa program that adequately addresses a worker shortage cannot be devised and implemented.

That said, the American electorate is about to prove PT Barnum to have been prescient, once again - with more than a little help from "public interest" groups whose main interest is the clandestine advancement of political goals which remain carefully hidden in the shadows.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Maybe. In an area rife with speculation and guesswork, Pew has come up with a guess which is different from the INS's guess. While I wouldn't trust Pew as far as I could throw them, it's far from certain that their guess is necessarily malevolent in this case.

Rick Ballard said...


Not malevolent, just peddling and using puffery. If you look at the INS report it notes that the 7 million number is a big revision upward from their previous best guess. If you look at the Pew report you'll find acknowledgement of a probable drop in illegal entries in '01-'05.

I don't think Pew is too happy about the probable outcome of having puffed the numbers.

Syl said...




Now I feel better.

Syl said...

Ah....from Joe:

You've got to stop the leak before you mop!

BTW..great job on running the numbers, Rick.

Unknown said...

I have often wondered myself about how anyone can know how many people are really are. In fact, it seems to me that some of these folks just kind of go back and forth, back and forth. I remember after 9/11 the number I heard was about 9 million.

According to most polls Americans prefer comprehensive reform, but then again people debate what that means. I don't think they just want a bandaid. A client of mine said that if they did not do something to reform the system we could have 20 million here by the time they got a wall built. I don't know about that, but I do think that just demanding a wall and nothing else will not be enough.

There is a filibuster rule in the Senate, if the House does not allow some kind of temporary workers program and improved enforcement here in the country then I doubt if anything will get done.

In other words I think it is time for compromise. They can appropriate the money for the wall first. They can sundown parts of the bill. They can couple any steps taken to deal with the people here with tougher enforcement, but the reality is if hardliners refuse to compromise on anything they will probably get nothing.

This wall will take time to build and if there are not other measures in place to deal with the influx of people there could be millions more people here by they time they get around to dealing with it all.

Unless we build more detention centers so that we can stop the catch and realease policy what good will more agents do? And unless we can begin to think about offering some kind of temporary workers program to take pressure off illegal entry, how much good will just building a wall do? Somewhere between a half and a third of the people here who are considered undocumented workers entered the country legally...they did not cross any desert. A wall would not have stopped them.

So I think we need to look at the thing as a whole or we will be like the boy with his finger in the dyke.

My concern is that if the Republicans can not fashion a compromise the avoids filibuster in the Senate and at the same time meets the demands of the nativists in the House they will be accused of not being able to govern. And there will be truth in the accusation.

vnjagvet said...

Rick's message, "enforce the existing laws already" makes great sense. Especially where local law enforcement and administrative authorities have been hampered by political correctness and other sociological frippery from just doing their respective jobs.

Undocumented folks are getting arrested for petty and serious crimes, having auto accidents, getting cars registered, getting drivers licenses, registering for unemployment and other "safety net" programs every day. Whether there are 9mm or 12mm, some percentage of that large number is rubbing up against "the law".

If part of "the law" was required to enforce the immigration laws as written, things would slowly begin to change.

Especially if Syl's wish came true.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Well people have been talking about just enforcing the laws for years. It seems to me that if it were that simple it would have happened at some point in time by now. In fact the existing laws have never been enough and unless there is additional money and people and tougher standards and other reforms there is no reason to believe that by some magic they will be in the future.

AJ has an interesting post today that I think is worth reading.:

I have read all across the major conservative sites where people say we cannot have an comprehensive bill on immigration (i.e., expand the guest worker program and document the immigrant workers) because it is not where ‘the people’ are. That’s a hoot. It is were most of us our except the far right conservatives. Check out this reasoning from John McIntyre at RCP (someone I admire a great deal):

[snip] This is a critical juncture for the GOP on illegal immigration and how to fashion a comprehensive solution to the broader immigration debate. … This past weekend two beltway icons, David Broder on Meet the Press and Bill Kristol on FOX News Sunday, encapsulated the conventional wisdom by saying President Bush would benefit from passing a comprehensive reform bill. They are wrong - especially if we are talking about any compromise that looks remotely like the Senate bill that passed with 85% Democratic support over the objections of nearly 2/3rd of Senate Republicans. Kristol, Broder and the majority of establishment intelligentsia don’t appreciate the political dynamics at play in the broad middle of the country.[snip]

AJ continues:

Actually they do. The broad middle is not ready to make felons out of people who work for a living. I live in Herndon, ground zero in this debate. The issue of illegal immigrants is hot here ever since the town council decided to create a magnet for day workers to hang out and find work. The problem was unemployed people massing in large numbers near neighborhoods where they would just hang out all day. They never addressed that with the day worker center - they just moved it from one place to the other. That is not a guest worker program! Note that these people are not working and that is the problem. And yes, do not use our tax dollars to promote illegal acts. That was adding insult to injury.

You will find large group houses in our neighborhoods that violate our neighborhood bylaws and have traffic in and out of them 24 x 7. It takes months to get rid of the excess people if they want to stay in the house. This is also not a guest worker program. These people need to follow our by-laws and stop overcrowding rentals.

On the flip side, there are many immigrant families who work hard and live in the area and are our neighbors. No one is ready to see them rounded up out of their homes and schools. No one. There are problems, but we don’t want the Police State to come in fully armed and threatening to deal with them at gunpoint. We want a better solution. We want a comprehensive solution.

The ‘middle of America’ is much more sophisticated than people realize. Check out these poll numbers:

Dowd’s memo says that an internal RNC poll conducted by Jan Van Louhuzen finds that “overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law.”

There is no way 20% of the people on the right make up the American Middle. What conservatives risk is alienating the 80% who don’t just oppose their ideas, they viscerally despise them and how they have been communicated (the old ‘you are with us or you are scum’ approach). The overheated rhetoric took a really nasty idea like deportation and just made it even uglier.

McIntyre is right, this needs to be handled carefully else all the trust that has been built up over the years convincing people conservatism is not some mean, heartless, ugly variation on the Nazi’s (the favorite spin of liberals) will be lost.

There is a quiet rage building among average middle class folks on the illegal immigration issue, and if the Republican leadership doesn’t take control of the problem very soon they will allow the more extremist wings of the anti-immigration debate to become the face of the Republican party on immigration.

Actually, that has already happened. And it is working against the Republicans and Conservatives. Right now I oppose any idea of rounding up people at gunpoint and deporting them so much I would - easily and without a second thought - work to tear down the Republican majorities to avoid that policy.

The Miers fiasco was an early indication of the dark side of conservative mob-think. It was all kicked off by David Frum at National Review who clearly had a personal ax to grind against Ms Miers, and a lot of people blindly played along in his vendetta. But Frum’s vendetta would never change the face of America.

The Dubai ports fiasco was also driven by fear and ignorance - but this time it was more than someone’s personal issues. We successfully insulted the best ally we have in the Middle East and spurned a country that was willing to pay for the installation and use of the most sophisticated cargo screening systems at their ports world wide. That would have meant goods coming here would be checked prior to leaving the foreign port. That PR disaster pretty much convinced me the conservative movement had run out of gas and was flailing around trying to find something relevant and big to debate. And it came very close to impacting us as a nation.

buddy larsen said...

Terrye, AJ is noticing a growing pile of flag-wrapped turds laying on the national doorstep.

Chennaul said...

terrye-terrific comment.

Look I'm so shell shocked by getting beat up by thread thugs on Polipundit-that I can't even engage in discussions anymore. But it is ironic how I have seen a thread go to racist hell in a hand basket and la voila there you are brave enough to fight them.

Cripes the first one seems like two years ago at LGF when "quark 2" was saying "all Mexicans should be shot on sight". And either the commenters agreed with her or were ignoring it until you flew in there and gave them holy hell. I read the thread two days late, - it made me sick.

Then there was a particular thread at Polipundit where they were agreeing to the statement-

"Now that the infestation has began should we not exterminate them with extreme prejudice"-

again this was being agreed to but an anonymous poster was giving them hell and I swear it sounded like the anchoress, AJ Strata, terrye, or Jayson.

Anways I don't know if this addresses anyone's fears but the Bingaman Amendment,No.4131 to the Senate Bill 2611 limits the number of aliens, including spouses and children, granted employment-based legal permanent resident status-something that must be attained on the path to citzenship that takes eleven years,to 650,000 during any fiscal year.

The McConnell amendment, which would have required a national ID card for FEDERAL elections was rejected by a vote of 49 to 48 with three not voting.

Think it was Democrats that voted against?

Guess again.

Anyways terrye you've got guts and I admire you.

PS We only have a certain amount of troops and funds they are finite. We aren't going to prevent one guy with one canister from entering the country-but we might be able to limit the quality of what is in the damn can by cutting the terrorist of from established entities with the means and resources to make sure the weaponization is more effective.

There is a blog run by Border Patrol agents and they can't keep too many because the argument was that they were only able to recruit old guys and once the old guys got a taste of the heat exetera they quit.

But ya that blog could be full of shit and only Michelle Malkin has all the "facts". She's proven to be soooo ethical.

Why don't Conservatives do us all a favor impeach Bush because he's done such a terrible job keeping his eye on the big picture and insuring our safety and appoint Michelle-Queen.

Rick Ballard said...


You need to identify an archtype dumb Rep upon which to focus your ire. I'll grant that there are any number to choose from on any given day but I've found it helpful to stick with John McCain.

I would not be at all surprised if he picked up Pence's privitization scheme as the panacea - it's just dumb enough for John to jump on board.

Unknown said...


I should be more specific. Let us say the people who are running from the president that gave them their majority and who they were more than willing to abandon him every and any time the going got tough.

Right now House Republicans are threatening to kill any kind of a deal unless they get exactly what they want and they are being egged on by pundits and bloggers who are not always on top of what regular people think and feel.

Now the thing that annoys me about this is that these are the same people who insisted we "do something" in the first place.

McCain is not one of my favorite people and I am not crazy about McCain-Feingold, but McCain has at least been steadfast about the War on Terror.

Unknown said...


My reputation precedes me.

I have a big mouth. Tis true and I never let a little thing like not knowing what I am talking about slow me up one little bit.

I do know what you mean about some blogs. It is hard to explain.

I remember years ago visiting a relative, someone I felt I knew and when something came on the TV about Martin Luther King his response was "It was high time someone shot that nigger."

I was stunned. I could not believe what I was hearing, it was not only that he felt that way...but that he felt saying it to me was acceptable, that I might find that ok because we were related. Hear lately I have something of that feeling on some blogs, not so extreme..but just kind of a creepy feeling.

ex-democrat said...

so there you have it: either agree with giving US citizenship to those who sneak in to the country, or you are a disgusting racist bigot!

thanks guys, i'll check with my wife (who, like me, is a 'legal' immigrant - whatever that means! hahaha) and let you know which we are.

buddy larsen said...

So there you have it, you either agree with ex-dem's either/or, or you're a either a fence-sitting twiddledee or a middle-of-the-road tweedledum.

ex-democrat said...

larsen - didn't you once tell me that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the kind who thinks there's two kinds of people and the kind that doesn't?

buddy larsen said...

Don't forget that Colombia a few days ago returned Presidente Uribe--our best friend in all of Latin America--on a landslide 60+% vote, with (i think it was) an eight-candidate field. Democracy--she's a process, not a destination (nor a defenestration).

Unknown said...

ex democrat:

No one said anything remotely like that.

Not even close. Please refrain from putting words in my mouth.

I don't think the Senate bill can and should stand like it is, but even it does not say that we should give full citizenship to people who sneak into the country. And what about people who come legally and just don't leave when they are supposed to?

Forcing people who have been here for several years, have never been arrested for a crime, are not on welfare, can support themselves and agree to pay a big fine plus back taxes for the right to get to the back line and maybe get citizenship more than a decade down the road is not agreeing to give everyone citizenship and if the nativist want to stop talking about these people as if they were an invading force who should be shot on sight people might not be getting so disgusted with them.

Unknown said...


Do you honestly believe that Americans will do those jobs? Do you see people from LA who need jobs loading into buses to go out and work the fields in the California?

Maybe we need a more rational program that allows for those jobs to be done without people being illegal in the first place.