Let's Try Telling the Truth About NC's Illegal Immigrant Population.

We all know that NC Republicans like scary stories about our Driver's License laws, particularly about how easy access means that terrorists are carrying ID cards. Never mind that there's no evidence that that's true. Never mind that the state legislature is already working on tightening license laws. Who needs facts when you've got ... Nate? Over at NC Rumors, Republican state senate candidate Nathan Tabor tries to increase the fear factor by relying on numbers that are just plain wrong. Some people might call that "lying," but the GOP's the party of honor, right?

Here's the first two sentences of Tabor's post (and here's a screengrab of the offending page):

A lot of changes have been taking place in North Carolina over the past few years. Did anyone happen to notice that the illegal immigration population in North Carolina jumped 43% in 2004?

That would be alarming—if it were anything like the truth. Unlike most bloggers, Tabor doesn't provide links to his sources, so I had to fill in some blanks to figure out what he was talking about. The truth is that the 43% number most likely comes from a misreading of research results that is so eggregious that it points to either incompetence or dishonesty.

Google "north carolina 2004 43% immigration" and you'll find this Americans for Legal Immigration page, which says that "from 2000 to 2004, North Carolina's illegal immigrant population grew 43 percent." Their source is a Pew Hispanic Center study which does estimate the undocumented migrant population in NC for 2002-2004 to be 300,000 (page 6). But where did the 43% figure come from?

Next stop: the Office of Immigration Statistics and a publication called "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000" (PDF). Here (on page 7) you'll find a government estimate of NC's unauthorized immigrant population for January of 2000: 206,000. 300,000 is about 45% greater than 206,000.

It seems almost certain that 43% is the rate of growth in the undocumented immigrant population in North Carolina from 2000 to 2004. Again, Tabor doesn't give us sources, so it's also possible that 43 is the first half of his ATM PIN, or code for "DC." But it's clear that NC's illegal population didn't jump 43% in a single year, as Tabor claims. It must be nice to feel free of an obligation to tell the truth.

Here's one other interesting tidbit I picked up this evening. That same OIS document estimates NC's illegal population in 1990 at 26,000. That means the growth from 1990 to 2000 was about 800%. Over 10 years, you'd need something like an average of 26% growth every year to see that kind of increase. By comparison, you'd only need 13% annual growth to explain an increase from 206,000 to 300,000. In other words, an increase of 43% in four years is actually a slowing of illegal population growth.

Now I'm not a statistician—I came up with those numbers over a few minutes using the calculator that came with WindowsXP. But I think there's enough to those numbers to make an honest person pause before hitting the panic button. Tabor's attribution of four years of growth to a single year is either dishonest or sloppy, sloppy work. But if he'd spent any time thinking about the statistics (the correct ones), he might have reconsidered his viewpoint. He surely would have reconsidered his opening sentences.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Tabor is less interested in thinking through his positions than in singing a particular tune. Esse Quam Videri, Nate.


Problems with numbers

There are also empirical problems with switching between surveys that may use different methodology. Also, with these relatively small numbers, flaws in methodology or even random changes can create distorted numbers. I think all any honest observer can say is that our undocumented population has increased over the years-much like our population overall.

It usually is problematic when politicians try to use numbers. I think there should be courses on empirical studies in public schools so more people can question these truly false claims.

Good digging, Lance.

Having run a market research company for a couple of decades, I can attest to the extent to which businesses use "lies, damn lies, and statistics" to make their cases. But in the public policy arena, we have to demand more.

This immigration "statistic" is the kind of crap that gets asserted and repeated and spread by mindless media types as though it's real and meaningful. Sadly, our public officials are training citizens to automatically discount anything and everything they have to say.

Check your sampling on Republicans

"We all know that NC Republicans like scary stories about our Driver's License laws"

Well, allow me to challenge what you "know" about NC Republicans. Cabarrus County is a good example of the debate within the Republican Party on immigration. Earlier this year,
Republican Jeff Barnhart sponsored a bill to help undocumented high school students
get legalized and in college. He was roundly criticized by a number of people (many of them being old-timer Democrats), including his own party's press releases and talk radio. How much help did he get from his brave, brave Democratic collegues in Raleigh? Nada. They let the bill die and painted Republicans with a broad brush in the media...including nationally on NPR. There wasn't much mentioned about his support; but the Dems couldn't wait to get on and paint NC Republicans as rabid zenophobes.

Just recently, a resolution was introduced to enforce illegal immigration to the all-Republican Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners. It will likely fail, because of the various views on illegal immigration and enforcement.

I normally wouldn't say anything; because this is a partisan blog and broad generalizations are not unique to the parlance of either the Left or the Right; but I find it a bit amazing how you will make a broad generalization and then analyze statistics to blow away (and rather deftly I might add) an opposing partisan's broad, inaccurate, and misleading generalizations.

This comment slipped my notice until today

Which is a shame, because it's a fair point. It's true that this is a partisan blog, but that shouldn't stop us from trying to tell the truth. So: as generalizations go, mine was overbroad. But I won't give up the point entirely: chances are good, really good, that if you hear a politician in North Carolina using the politics of fear to drive a change in DL law, then that politician is a Republican.

But that's not what I said, and Justin is well within bounds to call me on it. This post is mostly about one politician's problems.

Illegal Alien Population

Fact of the matter is there are well more than reported numbers of illegal alien population inside the entire USA. Reason being the Census who counts population only surveys 1 of every 6 households; sixty percent of surveys sent are never returned; illegal aliens don't report themselves! Law breaking employers who put them to work don't report themselves either. Nor do law breaking businesses who break law to do business with them report themselves as having broken national law. Government simply has turned a blind eye to the invasion underway by scores of illegal aliens, to satisfy a business community totally out of control, and devoid of any national loyalty or conscience. If you want to know the wrong estimates, you can see them via numbersusa.com if you click on jobs americans will do in that web site, and those figures come from government calculations, which anyone with three live brain cells knows are well under-reported and miscalculated. By the by, these are not immigrants? nor are they undocumented workers; nor are they migrant workers. They are illegal aliens with no right to be inside the country. They have no business obtaining anything here, from driver licenses to benefits paid for by american tax payers who themselves are not eligible to receive! The US has a right, and should, protect its' own soveriegnty. The Constitution, Article IV, section 4 demands the President and Congress protect each and every state in the union against invasion...............they all swore an oath on a Bible to uphold that Constitution, so it's a logical question to ask what their true agenda is here by not upholding it. People in this country has better wake up or they are going to find themselves living in the United States of Mexico as the USA is going to cease to function as a sovereign nation.

I think you're stretching

the the common meaning of the word "invasion" and the idea (and the spelling) of "soveriegnty." And US of Mexico? Cute.

You think illegals have no right to anything in the US? Great. Vote for politicians who agree with you. This post isn't about that.