Monday, May 11, 2009

The zombie 14 reasons email: repeating it does not make it true

Photo used under Creative Commons from FaceMePls

In July 2008, the ISAAC Newsletter debunked a popular email called "14 reasons". Well like some late night horror flick zombie, it's back. It is now called "Wake up America." So that you can easily access the information, I have published the take-down here:

1. $11 billion to $22 billion are spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year by state governments. Verify it here.

Reply: The link jumps to an article put out by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The article actually says, "Each year, state governments spend an estimated $11 billion to $22 billion to provide welfare to immigrants." Note the sentence and the article are not about illegal immigration. The focus is legal immigrants. Indeed, the article references the Immigration Reform Act of 1996. Actually, legal immigrants are barred from all federal means-tested public benefits for five years by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (Aug. 22, 1996) (codified as 8 USC §§1601 et seq.). Illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal welfare. Even the cited article admits that, "Illegal immigrants are barred from the following federal public benefits: grants, contracts, loans, licenses, retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, post secondary education, food assistance and unemployment benefits. States are barred from providing state or locally funded benefits to illegal immigrants unless a state law is enacted granting such authority."

The author of this e-mail simply replaced the word "immigrants" in the headline with the term "illegal aliens."

2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year are spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC and free school lunches for illegal aliens. Verify it here.

Reply: This is an article posted by the Center for Immigration Studies. Again the author of the email mischaracterizes the article. As noted above, illegal aliens are barred from such programs. The article is actually about the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants.

3. $2.5 billion dollars a year are spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens. Verify it here.

Reply: This "fact" links to the article in No. 2 above. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid. They can be eligible for assistance in emergency circumstances- i.e., emergency room visits. The article also states, "Although we find that the net effect of illegal households is negative at the federal level, the same is not true for Social Security and Medicare. We estimate that illegal households create a combined net benefit for these two programs in excess of $7 billion a year, accounting for about 4 percent of the total annual surplus in these two programs." You can also verify the surplus illegal immigrants are putting into these programs here.

4. $12 billion dollars a year are spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English! Verify at:

Reply: Some background is required to put this statement in context. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Plyer v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), struck down Texas education laws which withheld any state funds from local school districts for the education of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States and which authorized local school districts to deny enrollment in their public schools to children not "legally admitted" to the country.

The Court summed its rationale for striking down the laws here:

Persuasive arguments support the view that a state may withhold its beneficence from those whose very presence within the United States is the product of their own unlawful conduct. These arguments do not apply with the same force to classifications imposing disabilities on the minor children of such illegal entrants. At least, those who elect to enter our territory by stealth and in violation of our law should be prepared to bear the consequences, including, but not limited to, deportation. But the children of those illegal entrants are not comparably situated. Their "parents have the ability to conform their conduct to societal norms," and presumably the ability to remove themselves from the state's jurisdiction; but the children who are plaintiffs in these cases "can affect neither their parents' conduct nor their own status." Even if the state found it expedient to control the conduct of adults by acting against their children, legislation directing the onus of a parent's misconduct against his children does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice. (Citations omitted).

You can find the case here.

Turning to the statement made in the e-mail: The link given does not work. The correct link is here. The link jumps to a transcript from Lou Dobbs' program on CNN. There are no citations for the claim but a commentator on the program said this:

"The Federation for American Immigration Reform says taxpayers spend $12 billion a year on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally.

There is an article here which is FAIR estimates are the costs at $12 billion.

FAIR describes the methodology of its study:

The 1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants residing in the United States and their 2 million U.S.-born siblings can be divided among the states using government estimates of the illegal alien population. Using each state's per-pupil expenditure reported by the U.S. Department of Education, cost estimates for educating illegal immigrants in each state are shown below. (footnotes omitted).

There are discrepancies about the population figures used in FAIR's calculation. FAIR alleges that there are 1.5 million school aged illegal immigrants. FAIR cites, Michael Fix and Jeffrey Passel, "U.S. Immigration-Trends and Implications for Schools," Immigration Studies Program, The Urban Institute, 2003, for support. In actuality, the study from Fix and Passel actually states that there are 1.1 million undocumented immigrant children of school age in the United States. You can find the study here.

Additionally, the Texas Comptroller estimates there are 140,000 illegal immigrant children in public school in Texas. FAIR uses a number of 225,000. A good discussion of the issue by the Texas Comptroller is here.

The commentary that these children "cannot speak a word of English" is generalized and not supported.

5. $17 billion dollars a year are spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies. Verify it here.

Reply: The link is to the same Lou Dobbs show transcript. As noted in the last issue of Separating the Wheat from the Chaff, the derogatory term "anchor baby" is misleading and inaccurate. For a more in depth discussion of the issue, see the June 2008 ISAAC newsletter here.

Children cannot "anchor" their parents to the United States. A U.S. Citizen must be 21 years old before they can petition for their parents to come to or remain in the United States legally. See here.

As far as the $17 billion dollar figure cited above, the FAIR study noted in No. 4 above, does estimate that the cost of educating the U.S. citizen children of illegal immigrants is $16.6 billion. However, FAIR arrives at this amount by claiming that illegal aliens have "2 million U.S.-born siblings." There is no citation supporting that undocumented immigrants have 2 million U.S. citizen children that are of school age.

6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY are spent to incarcerate illegal aliens. Verify it here.

Reply: The link is a transcript to Lou Dobbs' April 1 show. There CNN correspondent Christine Romans stated:

"At the same time, America's criminal justice system is bulging with these citizens of other countries. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 30 percent of federal prisoners are not U.S. citizens. At a cost of $63 a day, taxpayers spend more than $3 million every day to house non-U.S. citizen dollars in our federal prisons. Most are thought to be illegal aliens."

Contrary to the e-mail's claim, Romans did not state that 30 percent of federal prisoners are illegal aliens, but rather that 30 percent are "not U.S. citizens." Her claim that "[m]ost are thought to be illegal aliens" is unsubstantiated and her "30 percent" claim is contradicted by data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The bureau's latest inmate population report stated that as of May 26, 2007, 73.5 percent of federal prisoners are U.S. citizens and 20.8 percent are noncitizens-not just illegal immigrants-from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, while the citizenship status of 5.7 percent of the federal prison population is recorded as "Other/Unknown."

7. 30 percent of all federal prison inmates are illegal aliens.

Reply: See No. 6 above.

8. $90 billion dollars a year are spent on illegal aliens for Welfare and social services by the American taxpayers.

Reply: See Nos. 1, 2, & 3 above. Illegal aliens are not eligible for federal welfare.

9. $200 billion dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens.
Verify it here.

Reply: This is a claim made by Lou Dobbs on his show. He cites no studies or support for it.

10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the US.

Reply: This is another intentional misquote from Lou Dobbs' program. The author of the e-mail simply replaced the word "Hispanics" with "illegal aliens" in the headline. The actual quote from the transcript is:

"I'll say another thing that can't be said here, which is the fact that Hispanics in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-Hispanics, and it seems very clear that if you basically bring in a lot of low-skilled Hispanics with dysfunctional family structure from the Central America, that both they and, in particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the United States."

Leaving aside the gross mischaracterization of the quote, the incarceration rate of native-born men (citizens) ages 18-39 was 3.5 percent. The incarceration rate of non-native born men in this age group was .7 percent (less than one-tenth of one percent). Native born men are incarcerated with seven (7) times more frequency than non-native born men. See here.

11. During the year 2005, there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our southern border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from terrorist countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U. S from the southern border. Verify it here.

Reply: The actual report states that during fiscal year 2005, the United States Border Patrol apprehended approximately 1.2 million illegal aliens. Of that number, 165,000 were from countries other than Mexico. Of the non-Mexican aliens, approximately 650 were from special interest countries. Special interest countries are those "designated by the intelligence community as countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism."

The report was criticized by other members of the Committee on Homeland Security as being inaccurate.

12. The National Policy Institute, estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five-year period.' Verify it here.

Reply: National Policy Institute did publish such a study. It is a Georgia-based research foundation that educates the public on trends and policies that affect the interests of the United States' founding people and historic majority population. NPI is guided in its work by the wisdom and vision of the Founders, whose purpose was to establish "a more perfect Union" for "Ourselves and our Posterity." The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized the group here.

13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin. Verify it here.

Reply: The author of this e-mail again takes various liberties with the truth. Again one word makes a difference. According to USA Today, "immigrants" sent 40 billion home Latin America and the Caribbean.

14. The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants in the United States.' Verify it here.

Reply: The Violent Crimes Institute published one study that claimed nearly 1,000,000 sex crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. You can find the study here.

The study began with the assumption that there were 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The study then made the following unsupported assumptions: 1) "the fact that most of them [illegal immigrants] are male"; and 2) "Since most sex offenders are male; there is a higher percentage of sex offenders in the illegal immigrant population than the general population.

In addition, the research study claims that after "examining ICE reports and public records, it is consistent to find sex offenders comprising 2 percent of illegal apprehended." The study then took the 2 percent figure and multiplied it against the total estimated population of illegal aliens. Thus, the study concluded that there were 240,000 illegal alien sex offenders (2 percent x 12 million). The study also claimed that each purported sex offenders "averaged" four victims. So the study multiplied 240,000 alleged illegal alien sex offenders by 4 to arrive at 960,000 sex offenses.

A closer examination reveals that the study's methodology is fundamentally flawed. The data for the study comes from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), May 9, 2005 study, GAO-05646R. You can find it here.

The GAO examined all of the illegal aliens that were then incarcerated in every federal, state and local jail. It found that there was a total population of 55,322 illegal aliens incarcerated across the country.

Those 55,322 illegal aliens committed a total of 700,000 different offenses. These offenses included drug violations, property crimes or other crimes. Of the 700,000 offenses committed by the 55,322 illegal aliens in custody, 2 percent or 11,883 were labeled sex offenses.

It is crucial to note that these heinous crimes were committed by a small population of incarcerated illegal aliens. Of those in jail, 2 percent of their crimes were sex offenses. It is not accurate to say that since 2 percent of the offenses committed by jailed illegal aliens are sex offenses that the same percentage applies to every illegal immigrant man, woman and child. So the 1 million sex offense figure is grossly exaggerated and not supported by the government data that it cites. Indeed, the incarceration rate of non-native born men is less than the rate of native born men.

Conclusion: The e-mail ends with the quote, "The total cost is a whopping $338.3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR."

REPLY: This is simply the sum of the discredited amounts listed.

Immigration is an emotional issue. As Christians, we have different political and social views. Our voices will compete with others in the marketplace of ideas. E-mail is a wonderful communication tool but it can also multiply confusion, falsehoods and misinformation. As we engage in spirited debate on this issue, please take time to do your own research and verify all your sources of information.

Keep separating the "wheat from the chaff."

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