Lies, damn lies, and immigration statistics

Phil Strickland, a Staff Writer for The Californian penned this opinion piece in the North County Times.  (Emphasis added)

You know the saying about statistics: You can make them prove anything you’d like.

That seems to be the order of the day in the debate over illegal immigration. What’s your pleasure? Good news or bad? Not to worry, we’ll find a study that seems to prove your point.

The troubling thing is that this is an issue we can’t afford to botch by being sucked in by a combination of lowball statistics and pleas to our “humanity.”

In a recent report, the numbers used by a councilman in Escondido in supporting the rental ban passed there have been alleged to be overstated.

Councilman Sam Abed has estimated that about one-fourth of the city’s residents are illegal immigrants. That would be about 35,000 people.

A study commissioned by the American Immigration Law Foundation, a pro-illegal immigrant foundation, found that about one-third of the nation’s foreign-born population are citizens, another third are legal residents and illegal immigrants comprise the final third.

If U.S. Census numbers are correct, there are about 39,600 foreign-born residents in Escondido. Using the pro-illegal immigrant statistic, that would put the number of illegal immigrants at “only” 13,200. Feeling better already, aren’t you?

Of course, a spokesman for the anti-illegal immigration Center for Immigration Studies think tank says that applying those percentages to a particular community is a faulty approach, particularly in the case of cities near the border or in agricultural areas.

There you have it. There may be 35,000 illegal residents, more than 35,000 on occasion, or as few as 13,000 in Escondido.

You surely know the numbers game doesn’t stop there.

Another recent report says the impact of illegal immigrants on our health-care system is overstated.

The Rand Corp., a private, nonprofit research organization, says its analysis of a survey conducted in 2000-01 of 2,400 Los Angeles County residents found that health care for illegal immigrants cost American taxpayers about $1.1 billion.

On the other side of the statistical divide is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which estimated in 2004 that health care for illegal immigrants cost California taxpayers $1.4 billion.

The federation’s numbers were derived from a study in 2000 of health-care expenses for illegal immigrants in border counties that found Californians forked over $908 million.

The federation is joined by the Center for Immigration Studies, which found the federal cost in 2004 to be $2.2 billion — twice Rand’s estimate for 2000-01.

No matter how you add it up, illegal still equals illegal.

The Rand study, according to its author, shows that the debate should concentrate on the cost of education and other public services rather than “the relatively small health care costs.”

Thank goodness, guess we’re not being soaked by the illegal immigrants after all. Must be someone else clogging those emergency rooms at our expense.

The bottom line is that it’s all basically guess work. Isn’t it handy that the federal government doesn’t document the number of the undocumented?

A quote by the late Sen. Everett Dirksen fits nicely here: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Yep, feeling better all the time.


**This was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email the coalition and let me know at what level you would like to participate.

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