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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Facts and Figures (Immigration Debate Edition)

To be honest, I'm not sure what one should think about the immigration debate underway in the Congress. So no issue advocacy here. But I just wanted to raise one issue that has been troubling me in the debate. Some people say that there are eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States. Others say that there are twelve million. Now, the first thing that strikes me is that these numbers "seem relatively close," as in eleven is close to twelve. But really, in absolute terms, the greater is a million illegal immigrants greater, and in relative terms, the greater figure is almost ten percent larger than the lesser. So there seems to be a lot of uncertainty in terms of the estimated number of illegal immigrants in the United States today.

Yes, those figures are clearly estimates. There's really no way to actually count illegal immigrants.

Now, I don't know how these estimates have been arrived at. And I haven't had time to research the issue (maybe tomorrow). But my point is a simple one: We don't actually know how many illegals there are, in the United States today, and the estimates that we have are not really that similar. It's conceivable that the number is greater than twelve million; it's conceivable that it's less than ten million.

But in the debate, the number is always eleven or twelve million.


At 8:20 AM, Blogger Frances said...

Even if the total number of undocumented workers in the US were only 1 million (the range of acknowledged estimate error) that would still be far beyond the range of what the US government could round up and deport. It would still be equivalent to uprooting the entire populations of San Jose or Detroit. Completely impossible. The US government lacks both the capacity and the will.

To even attempt to deport them would require a massive new government bureaucracy, substantial federal hiring, new infrastructure to house and transport deportees, and the political will to withstand wrenching news coverage of people being forcibly removed from their homes and separated from the families. As Jon Stewart put it, "Think about Elian Gonzalez, and how easy that was. Now, times that by 11 million."

These problems don't even include the diplomatic issues. How easy would it be for Latin America to re-absorb this population when Houston can't even cope with the Katrina refugees? It would be a foreign relations disaster. And the whole operation would look an awful lot like ethnic cleansing.

Any immigration proposal that doens't involve widespread amnesty just isn't dealing with the facts and realities as they are. It's just political posturing.


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