[Recently by Linda Thom: How Much Is That Strawberry In The Window?]
The new Pew Hispanic Center study, Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics, by Jeffrey S. Passel, [PDF] might have some believing that a quarter of the illegal aliens pouring across our southern border have some college. For those who know a little something about the numbers, that is patently ridiculous.
Indeed, those of us who have been around the issue for some time read anything published by the Pew Foundation with some skepticism. Jeffrey Passel and his frequent collaborators Rebecca Clark and Michael Fix have been turning statistical tricks for money for quite some time.
In 1994, Jeffrey Passel published a study funded by the Tomas Rivera Center. The study entitled Immigrants and Taxes. A Reappraisal of Huddle's 'The Cost of Immigrants' asserted that immigrants paid their way; that is, that they paid more in taxes than they used in public services. Dr. Donald Huddle's study had stated the opposite.
We all know the truth now—but at the time, the dueling studies confused most folks and the studies put the rest to sleep.
How did Jeff Passel find that immigrants pay their way? His most important sleight of hand: separating the costs of children from the immigrant parents. Quite simply, if the children of immigrants were born in the United States, he did not include their education as a public cost of immigration. He said they were not immigrants.
As educating the children is the biggest cost associated with immigration, this is a big enchilada. How big? In the last decade, over 40 percent of children born in California had immigrant mothers. Nationally, about a fifth of the births were to immigrants.
I recall reading a glowing report by Mr. Fix covered in the Los Angeles Times wherein he asserted illegal aliens used virtually no unemployment insurance. But it would only be newsworthy if they did use a lot of unemployment insurance—because illegal aliens are legally prohibited from getting unemployment benefits.
I don't know if illegal aliens are virtuous or not. But then I do know that they are breaking the law by being here. And I do know that Mr. Fix is not virtuous at all.
Later in 1994, Rebecca Clark and others of the Urban Institute published a study on the costs of illegal immigration in seven states. The study, funded by the Federal Government, was released on the same day that the State of California released a study on the same subject. They found that illegal aliens received more in public services than they paid in taxes. (For a detailed analysis of the two studies, readers can refer to the archives of The Social Contract Press. [Are the Urban Institute's Estimates of Taxes Paid by Illegal Aliens Reasonable?]) Most readers don't laugh out loud at pages full of numbers, but I did. I did government budgets for a living. They are not very amusing but these computer-assisted, generated whatever made me laugh a good hearty belly laugh.
The Urban Institute gang said that illegal aliens in California had per capita income of $6,752 per year and paid $331 per year in state sales tax. The base sales tax was 7 ¼ percent or 0.0725 as a decimal.
That's the joke. So if you don't get it, here's more. How much does an illegal alien have to purchase to pay $331 in sales tax? Divide $331 by .0725 and the answer is...$4,566.
And that does not include services and food as they are not subject to sales tax in California.
Amazing, isn't it? With per capita incomes of $6,752, illegal aliens spend $4,566 on clothes, washing machines, cars and have money left over for rent, social security deductions, food and school supplies for their children.
What is really amazing is that the Urban Institute gang had to use computers to figure this out and that the Federal Government paid good money to hire The Urban Institute gang to study this.
Moral: Beware of immigration enthusiasts bearing studies.
Linda Thom [email her] is a retiree and refugee from California. She formerly worked as an officer for a major bank and as a budget analyst for the County Administrator of Santa Barbara.