Urban Institute Event

The Urban Institute is a DC think tank, regularly producing reports on various social topics, including immigration. Like almost any DC think tank, it has a political orientation, generally aligning with the views of the Democratic Party, but over the years I’ve found their research to be fair and of high quality. They just announced a panel discussion on immigration, to be held on September 23. I urge those in the DC area to attend.

The e-mail version of the above announcement begins with “Elevate The Debate,” an Urban Institute tagline. This is reflected in the presence of two excellent researchers on the panel, Jennifer Hunt of Rutgers, who writes on tech immigration, and Dowell Myers of USC, who does research on unauthorized immigration. On the other hand, the panel also includes Cecilia Muñoz, who clearly is an advocate, counter to the Elevate The Debate philosophy. The panel also includes Audrey Singer, recently of the Brookings Institution, an entity that I would describe as engaging in covert advocacy; I seem to recall that she is very pro-H-1B, by the way.

As the announcement states, this panel discussion will follow the release of a major NAS study on immigration. The one in 1997 was quite good, and widely cited, though I must add that the political climate was quite different then. It will be interesting to see what this one says. Concerning H-1B, I suspect it will have an “Intels good, Infosyses bad” theme. We’ll see.

Spin-Checking the Fact Checkers

Following Donald Trump’s policy speech on immigration last night, the Washington Post put its fact checkers to work on analyzing it. As usual, their analysis is far more spin than fact. A few points in particular are worth noting.

“[FAIR, whose report was cited by Trump] counts the cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants, even if they are born in the United States and, thus, are U.S. citizens”

This is a common obfuscation, and no one should be fooled. Without the unauthorized-immigrant parents, those kids would not have been born in the U.S. in the first place. So of course, the services used by the kids have to enter into the accounting.

“We should note that because the federal government is currently running a deficit, U.S. citizens also receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes”

First, this is silly, as it counts as “benefits” things like waging expensive wars in the Middle East.

But more importantly, it is lumping together poor people and rich people. Poor people, including citizens, do pay less in taxes than they receive in services. Immigration, most of which consists of poor people, adds greatly to that burden. Those who call for reduced immigration are making the point that we already have enough poor people, and it is unwise to add even more to the tax burden. What’s not to understand?

Trump: “Hillary Clinton has pledged amnesty in her first 100 days, and her plan will provide Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare for illegal immigrants, breaking the federal budget”

WP: “Trump falsely says Clinton’s plan will provide Social Security to illegal immigrants. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios. In general, people in the United States illegally are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits”

Four Pinocchios? I award 40 Dumbos to the Post. Trump was talking about amnesty, which by definition means that the illegals turn in to legals. Is the Post that logic-challenged?

Trump: “[The number of unauthorized immigrants is] always 11 million. Our government has no idea. It could be 3 million. It could be 30 million. They have no idea what the number is”

WP: “…no serious research supports Trump’s claim it could be as high as 30 million”

For crying out loud, come on, Trump wasn’t presenting that 30 million number as a statistical estimate. He was just making the point that no one really knows the true figure.

“…the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants do not fit Trump’s description of aggravated felons, whose crimes include murder”

Trump has never said most of the illegals are criminals. So, I award 12 When-Did-You-Stop-Beating-Your-Wife points to the Post.

But it brings up an important question: Concerning immigrant crime, should one look at absolute numbers or proportions? Trump was focusing on the former, basically saying, “Without illegal immigration, these murdered Americans would be alive today.” Whether one agrees or not with this view of things, there is no denying that it is a legitimate, relevant form of analysis. It is similar to the tax burden example above; we already have a lot of criminals, so do we want to add even more criminals through immigration?

Unfortunately, many people have such poor math skills that they don’t even understand the difference between absolute numbers and proportions. I wrote a blog about this in the context of immigrant crime.

As usual, Trump’s tone and language (including body language) last night were too over-the-top for my taste. But contentwise, there actually was very little in his speech that most Americans would find seriously objectionable. It’s time that the Post based its fact-checking on real facts, not presenting biased spin as fact.