Monday, April 4, 2011

State of Washington lawmakers playing the illegal immigrant blame game, with the help of the Seattle Times

Last year I did not receive a form from the U.S. Census. I didn’t receive one in 2000, either; if memory serves, I called the Census Bureau to inform them that I did not receive a form, and for doing my civic duty I received a sarcastic comment along the lines that THEY didn’t make mistakes. I never did receive that form. So is the 2010 Census accurate? How many native-born citizens like me did it miss? And we’re supposed to believe that the extrapolations it makes in regard to the number of illegal immigrants is accurate? How can the Pew Foundation make a claim for the number of illegal immigrants from Census information, especially when the Census doesn’t actually differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants?

By the same token, why should we believe that the state of Washington will “save” $59 million by denying anyone who cannot prove they are legal residents from receiving public services? Once more, the state facing a $5 billion shortfall is scapegoating illegal immigrants for its budget woes, with the help of the Seattle Times. It’s bad enough that you can’t walk the streets without someone wondering what the odds are that you are an illegal immigrant, or if that person is a Republican, if they think you shouldn’t be legal at all (and by the way, 13 percent of illegal immigrants are Asian, yet I’ve never heard of an ICE raid in Seattle’s “Chinatown”—the status of which is something like the Vatican’s in Rome: Don’t mess with us). Another hypocrisy is that the state is proposing to deny illegal immigrants services on one hand, and yet collect their sales and property taxes on the other. This wasn’t mentioned in today’s Seattle Times’ story, which tried to do the despicable thing of playing off the legal impoverished against the illegal impoverished—kind of like the old South’s attempt to play-off poor whites against blacks. It’s in fact a win-win for the state; lawmakers have their scapegoat to obfuscate their own weakness and lack of vision, and they can make a little money off illegal immigrants in the bargain.

Of course, the totality of the budget cuts hurts everyone except the well-off; the fact that the state’s taxes are among the most regressive in the country seems to matter not, with the poorest wage earners being hit the hardest both in state taxes paid (as a percentage of income) and in services cut, while the well-off pay little as a percentage of income. None of this matters to the jelly-spined governor, self-serving lawmakers, and the hypocritical Seattle Times editorial board. Just blame those damned illegals for everything.

But back to an examination of “facts.’ A 2007 CBO report made some “authoritative” claims concerning the “cost” of “unauthorized immigrants,” which on the surface seemed damning—except when you take into account the fact that even the statistics used by the CBO suggested that the ratio of taxes paid by to services used by “unauthorized immigrants” is actually greater than that of similarly-situated native-born citizens. But more fascinating was the information in a grayed-out aside:

"Are all costs and revenues captured? Many of the estimates took into account certain selected costs and revenues; no study, including those that reported net costs, attempted to look at total costs and revenues."


"To what extent does this population pay taxes and consume government-provided services? Research that examines the extent to which unauthorized immigrants pay taxes is limited, as are available data that examine the extent to which the unauthorized population uses public services. For example, there is little information on the proportion of students participating in specialized language classes who are unauthorized immigrants or the frequency with which those immigrants use publicly funded health services."

In other words, the cost of "unauthorized immigration” is at best a “guestimate” based on data that largely doesn’t exist. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that these "costs" are grossly exaggerated for maximum political advantage. Even the Pew Foundation’s “authoritative” numbers on population are based on extrapolations from small samples, with the high probability that persons of “unknown” legal status may be illegal as a percentage of another number which might in fact be legal. In a word? Mendacity, mendacity—always mendacity. This is what the scapegoating of illegal immigrants, who fill in the gaps left unfilled by “native" labor--and have always done so--is largely about. They are always nice to have around when you need someone to blame for your own failings.

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