|Some memes never die
Los Angeles Times | February 05, 2007
Despite our sound
debunking last spring of ten "facts" on immigration sourced to The
Times, the list still makes the occasional blog post and e-mail round,
and, as it did last month, sometimes ends up in the inbox of a Times editor.
New and just as wrong "facts" and assorted rants (worrying, say, about
the Emperor of Japan taking advantage of affirmative action programs) have
glommed on to the original list of ten, meaning it's time for myth-busting,
"Fact" 1: Less than two percent of illegal aliens are picking
our crops, but 29% are on welfare.
Factual basis? Pew
Hispanic Center found last year that four percent of illegal immigrants
work in farming (compared to 0.5% of the native population). Most illegal
immigrants work in services (31%) or construction (19%). Illegal immigrants
are generally barred from receiving welfare (they can access emergency
medical care and a K-12 education). The tough-on-illegal-immigration think
for Immigration Studies reports in 2004:
In terms of welfare use, receipt of cash assistance programs
tends to be very low, while Medicaid use, though significant, is still
less than for other households. Only use of food assistance programs is
significantly higher than that of the rest of the population.
CIS goes on to state that, on balance, illegal immigrants take more in
services than they pay in taxes, but that is disputed.
"Fact" 2: Over 70% of the U.S.’ annual population growth and
over 90% in CA, FL, and NY results from immigration.
Factual Basis? The Census
Bureau estimates that from July 2005 to July 2006, population increased
by 2,891,423 in the U.S. Immigration accounts for 1,204,167 people, or
California’s population increased by 303,402 people; 266,295 or 88%
Florida saw an increase of 321,697 people, including 99,754 immigrants,
who make 31% of the total. New York’s total population decreased by 9,538.
"Fact" 3: The cost of immigration to the American taxpayer in
1997 was (after subtracting taxes immigrants pay) a net $70 billion a year
(Professor Donald Huddle, Rice University). The lifetime fiscal impact
(taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant
is a negative number.
Factual Basis? Huddle has conducted several such studies, though
we can’t confirm a $70 billion cost. Huddle does, however, estimate that
immigrants cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars a year. In his
1997 study he estimates that the 1996 cost was $24.44 billion.
Huddle's figures are disputed, and other organizations, notably the Urban
Institute, claim immigrants are a net benefit to the country. The discrepancy
— which would also arise in any discussion of lifetime fiscal impact —
comes from cherry-picking data. The Urban Institute, for example, includes
Social Security taxes paid; Huddle includes estimates for native-born children
of immigrants. (For a side-by-side comparison of an early Huddle study
and Urban Institute research, see here.)
"Fact" 4: 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.
Factual Basis? Thirty seven percent of inmates in federal prisons
are noncitizens, according to the Federal
Bureau of Prisons. The number of them that are illegal immigrants isn’t
offered by the Bureau, though they do note that 10% of the offenses are
"Fact" 5: According to the Los Angeles Times, Orange County,
California is home to 275 gangs with 17,000 members, 98% of which are Mexican
Factual Basis? The Times has not printed these figures. On June
8, 1994, a Times story did state that Orange County had 275 gangs with
17,000 members, of which 85% were Latino. It did not specify how many of
that group were Mexican, nor how many were Asian.