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Undocumented Immigrants are Easy Targets for Newspaper Headlines

LatinaLista — Picking on undocumented immigrants has become chic in this country.
From politicians to cable talk show hosts, all have figured out they score brownie points if they blame undocumented immigrants with such vices as propelling poverty stats or contributing to growing crime rates.
The sad aspect of this trend is that now newspapers want to follow suit.

But for a business that relies on accuracy as a benchmark for a job well done, it’s a violation of pubic trust that some newspapers would rather be chic than totally truthful.

An article in a McClatchy newspaper titled “Law enforcers struggle with illegal-immigrant crime” would have us believe from the headline that crime is on the rise by undocumented immigrants.
What’s scarier than that?
A chart used in the story paints an even more sensational picture of crime by undocumented immigrants. It shows the overall prison population in 2001 and 2004 with numbers for “criminal aliens” for those respective years.
All the numbers have increased.

Yet, the article leaves out a couple of very important facts that alter the focus of the story — crime IS NOT rising among undocumented immigrants.
If it wasn’t for blogger Hubris Sonic, these major gaffes would have gone undetected and undocumented immigrants would have been the scapegoats yet again for invented allegations.
To clarify what Hubris discovered:
The article implies that the graph is keeping track of undocumented immigrants — Not so!
“Criminal aliens” refers to ALL non-citizens. By definition, that includes a wide range of people who are here from other countries – students, tourists, green card holders, etc. Hubris points out that those numbers are much larger than just the undocumented segment.
Also, the overall prison population cited in the graph isn’t the WHOLE prison system — just the federal prison system which comprises a small percentage of the overall prison system.
And lastly, but most importantly, graphs are always used to make a visual impact. When they can show a change then the story becomes an issue.
In this case, there is no issue because there is no story.
Though the numbers have increased from what they were in 2001 to 2004 — the percentage remained constant.
In 2001, criminal aliens comprised 36 percent of the federal prison population.
In 2004, criminal aliens comprised 36 percent of the federal prison population.
As Hubris asks: What’s the story?
Well, the story is how can undocumented immigrants be villified even more in the public consciousness?
What’s really sad is that Hubris received an email from a reader who pointed something else out to him:

a math geek emailed me and mentioned that if you look at 3 decimal places the percentage actually has DROPPED.

There’s no word yet if McClatchy newspapers will print a correction. If they were true to the ethics of the industry, they would. But if they want to be chic, well, …
Another example of where it is much easier to blame the undocumented rather than looking at the facts for what they are was found in today’s Washington Post’s op-ed section.
A column by Robert J. Samuelson titled Importing Poverty cites last week’s US Census findings, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006 report .
In his column, Samuelson bluntly states:

The stubborn persistence of poverty, at least as measured by the government, is increasingly a problem associated with immigration. As more poor Hispanics enter the country, poverty goes up. This is not complicated, but it is widely ignored.

He goes on to commit the rest of his column to blaming Hispanic immigrants and their “American-born children” for maintaining the poverty rate and stating that the current US immigration policy is to “import poor people.”
Even when he concedes that white and black poverty have risen since 2000, he’s willing to gloss over that fact by saying both rates are down over longer periods.
But when it comes to undocumented Hispanic immigrants, Samuelson would rather heap all the blame by saying:

Only an act of willful denial can separate immigration and poverty. The increase among Hispanics must be concentrated among immigrants, legal and illegal, as well as their American-born children.
…From 2000 to 2006, 41 percent of the increase in people without health insurance occurred among Hispanics. Paradoxically, many Hispanics are advancing quite rapidly. But assimilation — which should be our goal — will be frustrated if we keep adding to the pool of poor. Newcomers will compete with earlier arrivals. In my view, though some economists disagree, competition from low-skilled Hispanics also hurts low-skilled blacks.

Yet, in another opinion article, citing the same U.S. Census findings, a completely different picture of Hispanics emerges.
In the editorial, The Other Census Story, published in the Wall Street Journal, the opening paragraph contains:

Last week’s news that the U.S. poverty rate fell to 12.3% in 2006 from 12.6% in the prior year becomes even more noteworthy when you consider that Hispanics led the way.
According to the Census, poverty rates in 2006 were statistically unchanged for whites, blacks and Asians but decreased to 20.6% from 21.8% among Latinos. The poverty rate among Hispanics is lower today than the poverty rate among blacks (24.3%). Per capita income also increased across the board, by 1.9%, but here, too, Hispanic gains stand out. The per capita income of whites, blacks and Asians, increased by 1.8%, 2.7%, and 8% respectively, while Hispanic incomes rose by 3.1%.

Unlike Samuelson, the WSJ author confirms that the improved poverty numbers for Latinos is a trend that has been historically documented to show improvements over the last three years and which are expected to continue.
Yet, it makes such a good story, in Samuelson’s case, to be able to single out and attribute blame to one particular group of people who have no way to defend themselves from such attacks.
What’s ironic is that in his column Samuelson states time and time again that he wants the truth — as every good journalist should aspire for — even if it means creating his own version of it.
However, the Wall Street Journal seems to have the upper hand when it comes to following the ethics standards of the industry.
As they said in closing:

We hate to spoil the morose political mood with such contrary optimism, but we have to follow the facts where they lead.

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  • Frank
    September 6, 2007 at 9:39 am

    You know what? Americans are not stupid. It doesn’t matter how much illegal aliens are demonized by crime stats, etc. by their opposition or how much they are glorified by their sympathizers, the majority of Americans are opposed to their presence here simply because it is against the law! No amount of demonizing or glorifying can discount that and that IS THE BOTTOM LINE!

  • Horace
    September 6, 2007 at 9:49 am

    “It shows the overall prison population in 2001 and 2004 with numbers for “criminal aliens” for those respective years.”
    You’re also less than straightforward in your assertions, because you fail to account for illegal immigrants in state, and county jails. You can hardly be conclusive in your analysis without data that isn’t available for a known problem. Most state and county jails do not investigate the legal status of their inmates. To use the much smaller population of federal prisons to make your point is deliberately(?) leaves out the much larger inmate population not incarcerated in these facilities. You commit the same journalistic crime that you accuse others of doing.

  • Hubris Sonic
    September 7, 2007 at 3:48 am

    We didnt include that information because it wasnt in the original story. The reporter purposefully didnt look at local prisons. The reason being that non-us citizens account for a much smaller part of the prison population. If you had read the linked to story you would have seen that. McClatchy itself choose to deliberately look at federal prison stats. but their crime was much worse then you seem to understand, because the implied they were discussing the overall prison population and a significant increase in illegals, when the opposite was true

  • Tsipa
    September 7, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Dear Friends,
    I know it’s been said, but none of us got to the US as anything other than an immigrant; I can’t see the logic in condemning others for the actions I would take were I in their places. Why is it wrong for people to want a better life for themselves than the one they were born with? I thought that pulling yourself up was part of the American Dream! I wonder what the income rates are like for Hispanic immigrants pre-and post-relocation; I’m sure that would give a valuable insight into the “act of willful denial” that these people commit.
    At any rate, if we’re judging fitness to be a citizen by crime, poverty, and unemployment rates, about half of my pure-white, fifth-generation Illinois farm family would be out on their butts. Interesting that no one accuses them of subverting the “goal of assimilation.”
    Grr. Non te illegitimi carborundum (don’t let the bastards get you down).
    Thanks for listening.
    Best, Tsipa
    P.S. Cool site. 🙂

  • Frank
    September 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Immigrants must come legally. That is the difference!!!

  • Horace
    September 8, 2007 at 2:06 am

    We all need to work and earn money to live, but what makes the difference between the bank robber and the bank teller is the way they go about it. We have an orderly way of immigration that prevents those who would become dependent upon the public welfare or be a burden on our society to be give denied green cards. This rule applies to Pakistanis, Asian Indians, Koreans, etc. and Mexicans and other Latin Americans alike. The fact that those from Mexico find it more convenient to ignore this policy by scoffing at our immigration laws is no reason why they should be excepted.
    You tell me how millions of illiterate poor will avoid availing themselves of our national welfare system, regardless of current rules. They will continue to have children they can’t afford, and guess who will be picking up the welfare bill? It won’t be their employers who reap the benefit of cheap labor (at least directly), but the working citizen. And guess who will be competing for the already scarce welfare resources (Our treasury is not a bottomless well)? Yes, those citizens already on welfare will be competing for evermore scarce resources. How can you reconcile putting our current citizens on welfare in jeopardy with accepting millions of new non-citizen poor into our society? Sacrifice one group for another? Shouldn’t it be a citizens first policy?
    To put your money where your mouth is, how many of you illegal alien supporters are willing to support these new people when they become employed and are unable to pay their hospital bills? I’d venture to guess the answer would be none. It’s been shown in surveys of Democrats and Republicans that Republicans give more to charity and Democrats, the primary supporters of illegal immigration among the public, believe that taking care of weak is soleley the responsibility of the government. The Democrats approach is to spread the burden over our entire taxpayer base, imposing their socialist concepts on everyone. This is why Republicans have come to loathe their opposit. We have never been as socialist republic (remember the failure of the last one, the USSR), and God help us, will never be one.
    The illegal alien advocacy groups are parimarily constituted of Democrats, who, in fits of compassion would ignore the long term affects of adopting millions of impoverished and illiterate foreigners. It frightens those of us who recognize that the short term gains will irreparably damage the future of our children, all for sake of foreigners fleeing nations to which they will continue to hold allegience, like Mexico. Yes, Americans are concerned over our entanglement with Mexico. What nation wouldn’t be concerned that another would continue to exert their will on it? An alarming number of citizen immigrant Mexicans hold duel citizenship. Those of us who were born here wonder about the reliability of the allegience of foreign born Mexicans. Who would they side with should a crisis of difference arise, old Mexico or their half adopted home? Look what’s happening now with the illegal immigration crisis. Most birthright citizens have no problem with siding with fellow citizens to whom they are loyal, but hard decisions have to be made by duel citizenship Latin Americans, especially those who have still have families in the old country.
    Nations never change except from within. But what nation ever changed from within when its citizens flee en mass? Illegal alien supporters are just enablers for the status quo in economically failed states.

  • Mayanmx
    September 9, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Dear Horace,
    You make what seems like very “reasonable” arguments, talking about laws and seemingly identifying what can be the ‘answer’ to this very complex problem. Yet, in true American fashion, you have left out a part of the equation.
    Where is our responsibility in all of this? By law, when something is customary, i.e. has become a habit, that activity is deemed to be acceptable industry practice and must guide the just application of the law. To suggest as you do that these 12 million, majority Mexican, people are here ‘illegally’ is myopic and hurts our country. We must now consider immigration in light of the well-established industry practice of hiring cheap labor by companies run by people simply trying to compete in the global marketplace. Your failure to accurately reflect this global reality is where your argument falls apart. We are not some ‘innocents’ being overrun by people flooding the market. We have actively participated in the creation of this situation. To turn around now, when the economy is going so poorly and money is evaporating into the smoke of war, suddenly you feel like you’ve been harmed? I don’t mean you personally, I mean us as a country. These schizophrenic arguments that see us as the good guys and ‘them’ as the bad is the worst kind of rationalization. Everything has a price. Thanks to those millions of immigrants, this country saw the largest economic boom of its time. That we are not doing so well now, and want to blame our partners in this mutual ‘crime’, is not only unAmerican, its downright poor sportsmanship. Does Mexico need to have greater options for its citizens, yes? Did you suddenly wake up one day and notice this truth and if so, why today? Look at history and ask whether you truly want to promote such an rehashed plan as what is being carried out now. On two other occasions in modern U.S. history the country “suddenly” realized Mexicans were in the country, this current ‘battle’ is the same old fight. What I like most about my country, the United States, is that we generally lead the way on innovative social and civic thinking. When I read comments like yours and the more radical people speaking on this issue, you do not seem like a leader but instead like a character straight out of a history book. I don’t want to look back. I want to move forward. In my humble opinion, that means owning up to our part in things. If we participated in this system and want it to change, we don’t just throw up a gate and think of disposing of 12 milion people, including CHILDREN. We must reconsider our policy in an honest way that assumes responsibility for how we, as U.S. citizens, participated in creating the situation, and in what ways we want to make changes, in a humanistic fashion that sees everyone as a human being, not criminals. That is the American way. Its Just. I personally am tired of people who continue to live in myopic, self-serving blame and tarnish our image to each other, our neighbors and the rest of the world. You seem like a reasonable person, yet, now I appeal to your heart, your head and integrity to see the other side and really ask yourself if you or we have been innocent in the process. Ask how we can assume some responsibility for what is going on currently instead of blaming others.

  • Frank
    September 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    May, the blame is three-fold, our government, corporations and the illegals themselves. I don’t care how we arrived at this mess or how long it has been going on. It is out of control and intolerable now to your average everyday American. The average American is not to blame for this other than electing corrupt after corrupt politician by their lies and duping us all the time. We will deal with all three that are in cohoots in this matter. No amount of bleeding heart BS will stop Americans from taking their country back. We will return to a nation of laws and those that don’t belong here will be leaving. You can take that to the bank. You are clueless.

  • mayanmx
    September 9, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Dear Frank,
    You forgot consumers, that is, the average everyday American who shopped for cheaper products than ever in history, or who had someone clean up after them, make their clothes, cook their food, watch their children at insanely low prices. For the average everyday American to now want these people out is plain unfair, not some bleeding heart slogan. The prevalence of immigrants in every sector of our economy means that you can’t just throw your hands up in the air and blame it only on politicians (who I agree lie to the public about the real causes of this complex problem), corporations and illegals. How convenient that you forgot to mention you and I since we also benefitted from this arrangement. Yet, taking your argument further, are you considering the impact on our economy with the upcoming raids and sanctions against businesses? We are on the border of a housing market slowdown, increasing prices and decreasing incomes, does it really make sense to attack our businesses, the heart of our economy? Its been reported that more than 75% of agriculture, 65% of construction and so many other industries depend significantly on immigrants. Don’t you see how you are simply attacking yourself, ourselves, our country? The moral approach of them vs. us is so simple and impulsive that it doesn’t make any sense, let alone economic sense. Believe me Frank, I wish I was clueless, than I could throw my hands up in the air and blame everyone else. What Americans are you talking about taking back this country? Are you Native American? Like I said, you guys sound like you stepped out of the 1800’s. The world has changed. This is not a war, no one is taking the country that wasn’t yours in the first place. But now that we are all here, we are all Americans. We need complex answers not simple rthymes.

  • Horace
    September 10, 2007 at 9:57 am

    “Your failure to accurately reflect this global reality is where your argument falls apart.”
    Actually, Mayanmx, to go with the predatory practices of the global economy is to enter the ever spiralling race to the bottom for wage competition and standards of living. Already, demographers are saying that the next generations of Americans will be less off than mine, a trend that is extremely disturbing, and one never experienced before by this country.
    Look at China, their citizens earn practically nothing, that’s why our trade deficit is so high. We cannot compete with China because they have an inexhaustabe source of poor that are very limited in opportunity to improve themselves. There thousands of people for every factory job. Complain and they replace you with someone else who’ll work for the same money, or perhaps even less. Only a few investors and owners get the big bucks. The same thing is happening in this country when we import millions of poor illiterates. We’ll wind up with an oversupply of labor, causing the destructive competition that I described before. Maybe you would like to live in a country like that, but most Americans to agree with you.
    Surrendering to an invasion of foreigners is essentially forfeiting our citizens’ control of our national destiny. Saying we can’t correct the problem is defeatest and not in our national character. Si se puede!

  • Mayanmx
    September 10, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Dear Horace,
    I agree with you, the global marketplace, as it is set up, rewards the cheapest of everything. Its not just poor people who supply the chain but the large, inexhaustable market demand for cheap goods in the U.S. It’s all connected and I think until we recognize the circle and not the ‘sides’ we won’t be able to find solutions to this terrifying prospect you outline. Fear always fuels ignorant choices. I feel we essentially agree on the cause but differ on where to direct change. I do not see accusing people, humans, that is, foreigners, as the answer. I think talking about a revision of our concepts of business and how we all fit into the global picture is the important conversation to have with our representatives, in our business community and within the larger American community. I think it’s far more productive than choosing arbitrarily one particular people in the circle to blame. For example, its so easy to bash Mexico and China as the enemies, but very hard to see our role in the very same process. I mean, does it make sense to have our food shipped from thousands of miles while forsaking local markets that bolster local economies and spending? The flooding of the market with cheap labor has not just happened recently, its been going on since this country was founded. At times, we have benefited and been very willing to accept immigrants. Generally, when the economy is bad, we don’t want them anymore. What does that say about us as a country, and isn’t this simply more of the same, we impact the circle with our whims. If we want something different, we can’t pretend we just noticed immigrants in the country. What concerns me most is the wasting of time and energy on the whole immigration fight, and not addressing the root of the immigration spur. Treating the immigrants who have been caught up in the system, as we have as well, as criminals and the only cause of our problem doesn’t mean we will be surrendering. We will be embracing our humanity and addressing our problems in an honest and responsible way. That is the American way, or I hope will be the way for our future.

  • Hubris Sonic
    September 12, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Innovate and stop whining.

  • Frank
    September 13, 2007 at 9:08 am

    May, when you weigh the negatives like higher taxes to subsidize the illegal’s healthcare alone, the postives don’t outweigh the negatives. There are many other factors than are a negative too and I think I have mention a few of them in here already so I am not going to repeat them right now.
    I didn’t “voluntarily” benefit from any cheap illegal alien labor. It is only the greedy employers who benefited anyway, not American citizens. You are clueless if you don’t know that. I am for the rule of law and employing Americans even if it means I would pay higher prices for goods. It is greed opposed to morality. I choose morality. Our economy did just fine before the illegal invasion. I am sure I have been around a lot longer than you to know this.
    So, you don’t believe that with all the wars that have been fought thruout history over lands that the land doesn’t belong to the last owner/conqueror and current governments? National borders mean nothing to you? How far back in history do you want to go to make claims on lands occupied by the new governments/owners? Your argument is ridiculous.

  • Frank
    September 13, 2007 at 9:18 am

    May, these aren’t immigrants we are talking about but illegal aliens who have broken our immigration laws. They are subject to deportation if caught according to our laws and should be. Your humanitarian argument doesn’t cut it. We take in millions of legal immigrants. I would say that is pretty humane.

  • Horace
    September 13, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    And guess which ethnic group gets the greatest numbers of visas. You guessed it, it’s Latin Americans, so it’s really outrageous to say they aren’t getting their fair share or they’re being discriminated against.

  • Philip
    September 16, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Anti immigrant fever is spreading thanks to a vocal, well organized minority.
    Legal immigrants are feeling discrimination because they speak another language, dress in a certain style or “look” illegal.
    Always remember the old adage,”the squeeky wheel gets the grease”.

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