Suspect Data Used to Blame Immigrants for Economic Crisis

Jessica Acee • Dec 22, 2008

To counteract the growing momentum for realistic immigration reform anti-immigrant bigots seek to inject false data into the conversation. A new report entitled “The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Coloradans” was released by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). It’s apparent that FAIR prefers to dump their resources into faulty reports in an attempt to stir up more fear and hatred in an already tense economic landscape.

FAIR has been listed as a hate group by the civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside the Ku Klux Klan and the American National Socialist Workers Party. Current FAIR spokesperson Bob Dane has publicly called for the destruction of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would reverse African American civil rights gains.

With the economic crisis on everyone’s mind, FAIR is attempting to play off people’s fears by drawing on dubious data that blame immigrants for Colorado’s woes. “Even in the best of economic times, $1.1 billion would be an unnecessary and unjustifiable burden on Colorado taxpayers,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “With Colorado, like nearly every other state, forced to cut vital programs and services, these costs are simply untenable.” Stein has defended on several occasions FAIR’s acceptance of over 1.2 million dollars from the anti-Black Pioneer Fund, a “racial science” foundation.

One of the main themes in FAIR’s report is the claim that undocumented people are fraudulently obtaining benefits. Not once does FAIR offer proof of this but ignores real data that cites the devastating economic cost of the proof of citizenship-style bill that passed in Colorado in 2006. The law requires service providers to check documents and so far they have identified very few, if any, undocumented immigrants seeking benefits. This bill ironically passed with the support of Colorado’s Democrats.

FAIR instead uses spurious numbers to estimate that Colorado would save $1.1 billion dollars a year in the arenas of health care, education, and incarceration if undocumented immigrants didn’t exist. But the report is full of holes including FAIR’s addition of US-born citizens whose parents are undocumented in determining all costs of “illegal immigration.”

FAIR continues down the slippery slope of “expertise” by suggesting that all English learners are undocumented. For its data on incarceration costs, FAIR counts “suspected illegal aliens” and immigrants with detainee status (a 48-hour pretrial detention by law enforcement) who may be legal.

In acknowledging the inaccuracy of the data used for anti-immigrant propaganda purposes, the report uses the word “estimate” 57 times in its 13 pages. Nearly 90% of the statistical data given in the report is preceded by the word “estimate”*. To add to this folly many of the so-called “estimates” by FAIR are based on national data that is not even Colorado specific.

FAIR gives a couple of “recommendations” including training more police officers to enforce immigration laws and increasing bed space in detention centers (strange since one of the major costs the report dwells on is incarceration). They completely ignore any realistic or humane solutions already on the table.

One thing that FAIR does prove with this report is that for anti-immigrant leaders all is fair in the game of bigotry.

* For real accurate data on immigration see the Immigration Policy Center.

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