Dang statistics

07.04.07 | Comment?

I am sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants. I have known several, worked with them, and been friends with a few. Workplace raids with mass arrests, like the Fresh Del Monte plant bust here in Portland last month, do not have a good flavor and I commiserate with the families.

That said, when you’re writing a newspaper report that is only a thinly disguised hit piece on the Bush administration, you would be better off not including any statistics that your readers who are not innumerate can use to obliterate your premise.

On the front page of the Oregonian June 15, 2007, issue, is a headline “Raid reflects feds’ new tack: Target workers”. The lead: “Federal agents are dramatically expanding the arrests of ordinary undocumented employees in workplace raids. That’s a significant departure from the practice of targetting illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes.”

The side bar gives a graph with these numbers:

Year     Criminal Arrests     Illegal-imigrant arrests
2002    25                        485
2003    72                        445
2004    160                      685
2005    176                      1,116
2006    718                      3,667
2007    613                      3,226

The bars representing illegal-immigrant arrests soar dramatically in the last two years, while those for criminal arrests seem to barely budge.  The text states that arrests for “alleged criminal violations . . . have increased . . . since 2003 . . . . But arrests of workers solely for being in the country illegally have ballooned”.  It quotes the mayor of another city subjected to similar raids: “This was an act of intimidation.”

I have my concerns about both the current situation and the late failed attempts at reform.  This kind of political hit piece won’t help things.  Did the editors or reporter not notice the simple fact that their numbers show each year that criminal arrests as a percentage of total illegal-immigrant arrests are:

2002 5%
2003 16%
2004 23%
2005 17%
2006 20%
2007 19%

Other than the first year, those are fairly stable percentages.  The thrust of the numbers is that criminal arrests are rising in ratio with all illegal-immigrant arrests.  There is no disproportionate targetting of undocumented workers, pace the article’s implications.  Obviously immigration enforcement is being ramped up.  Whether that is good or not is another topic altogether.

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