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Monday, January 09, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner, and today's kolumn deals with everybody's favourite topic of late: immigration. And boy, is it a doozy.

Wingnuttia Level: 8 (Warning: severely warped reality ahead)

You know, I often have to turn to Kersten to hear the latest news. For example, she starts off by saying that "the governor's opponents have thrown ugly words his way, among them 'race-baiting', 'xenophobic', and 'fear-mongering'." That's interesting, because in all the articles that I have read, I don't see any of these words. Maybe there has been a letter to the editor or two that says something about xenophobia, but none come to mind. Of course, Kersten may be plugged into some huge liberal echo chamber that I am not aware of. Or she could just be making stuff up.

Her next statement is one that really pushes the wingnuttia level of this kolumn up: "But one allegation by some DFL critics really takes the cake: That illegal immigration isn't a real or central issue for Minnesotans." She then puts forward three bullet points in an attempt to show that these allegations are wrong. I'll deal with the allegations one at a time; see if you can find out what they have in common:

First, she cites a study conducted in Mexico by the Pew Hispanic Center that shows that 21 percent of Mexicans would enter the country illegally if given the opportunity. I have no reason to distrust Pew, and that figure doesn't sound too far off.

Second, she says (without citation, although I'm pretty sure this is accurate) that the most rapid growth in our nation's illegal immigrant population has been in states with small immigrant populations. Anybody who has been in the central cities and has taken a look around can see that our immigrant population is higher, and illegals make up part of that.

Third, she cites a study by the Urban Institute that says the Midwest is a "high-growth" region for illegal immigrants.

Does anybody know what these three things have in common? That's right! Not a single one of them shows that Minnesotans think that illegal immigration is a central issue to them. Oh, sure, these may be reasons why Kersten thinks we should be obsessed with illegal immigration like certain people are, but just because she thinks we should does not mean we are. Kersten's argument is no different from saying "Minnesotans care deeply about the price of squid tentacles because studies show that some people eat them." Once again, Kersten would get a big fat "F" if she tried to use that reasoning in a term paper from the high school level on up.

Now that we have passed Kersten's pathetic reasoning, let's get to the bad statistics. She says that 6 percent of the state's prison population consists of illegal immigrants, while they make up only 2 percent of the population. The implication, of course, is that these people are more likely to commit crimes. What I immediately wondered upon seeing those numbers, though, is whether they are what they are because Hispanics are overrepresented in the prison population, much like blacks are (and like whites are underrepresented).

According to the Department of Corrections, the July 1st, 2005 inmate profile shows that 632 out of 8708 prison inmates are Hispanic, or 7 percent. The 2000 Census says that Minnesota's population is 3 percent Hispanic (and that percentage has probably gone up in the five years since, to maybe 3.5%). So the prison population has twice as many Hispanics as the general population, give or take. Kersten is saying that the prison population has three times the number of illegal immigrants as in the population at large, so maybe they are bigger criminals...

But hold on here! Kersten's unsourced statistics show that 6 percent of the prison population is made up of illegal immigrants, but 7 percent is Hispanic. True, assuming that illegal immigrants are uniformly Hispanic is not totally accurate, but I think that there is sufficient overlap in the populations so that it accurate enough for rough calculations. So? Well, she is saying that 86% of all Hispanics in Minnesota prisons are illegal immigrants. That seems like an absurdly high number. I've shown my sources for these facts, Kersten hasn't. Where is she getting the 6 percent number from?

It goes without saying that Kersten has never shown much concern about how black are horribly overrepresented in the prison population, but whatever.

In her next paragraph, she says that illegal immigrants add to the cost of public education. So does every kid. Hell, kids with special education needs add a whole heckuva lot more to the cost of education than other kids; does Kersten think that they are too much of a burden too? A lot of their parents probably aren't paying enough in taxes to cover the costs of special ed; should they be kicked out of our school system? Illegal immigrants "often lack health insurance, and tend to use costly emergency room services." I haven't noticed her concern about all the poor white people who lack insurance and use the emergency room for health care. I just don't understand where she is trying to go when she says that illegal immigrants are vulnerable to the unscrupulous and criminals. Doesn't that mean they should be protected instead of being treated like pariahs? Or is she saying, like the woman who dresses provocatively, that they deserve it?

She then brings out the old "divide and conquer" tactic, pointing out that majorities of legal Hispanic immigrants want curbs on immigration. Of course they do: some of them are competing with new immigrants, legal and illegal, for jobs. It's the "I've got mine" syndrome, and it is hardly limited to Hispanics. People at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, no matter what their race, see immigrants as competition in the labor market. I fail to see how any of this proves that there isn't a racial component to the discussion anyway.

She ends by saying that the governor's critics need to "turn down the volume" and have a civil debate. It is statements like these that show how far out in Lala-land Kersten really is. Since these proposals have come out, I've seen and linked to a bunch of reasonable stories where there are civil discussions about the pros and cons of Pawlenty's ideas. I haven't linked to any stories about the governor being verbally attacked in public, or stories about immigration advocates burning the governor in effigy on the Capitol lawn. That's because these stories don't exist and won't exist.

In the end, what Kersten and other conservatives are so upset about is that most people aren't buying the line, espoused by Pawlenty and other Republicans, that illegal immigration is the number one issue facing Minnesota today, and we need drastic action to fix it. No matter how many stories about unreasonable raucous critics they make up, though, they aren't going to be able to convince the rest of the state that the sky is falling.


At 2:29 PM, January 10, 2006, Blogger Kevin from Minneapolis said...

The point in bringing up costs is to point out that because they shouldn't be here - hence the illegallity - these are costs that shouldn't be paid.

Also, I found the real point of her article to be that the rhetoric needs toned down, something I believe the sacred Star and Tribune has called for as well. I guess it's okay when they say it - their statistics are inherently beyond reproach.


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