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No Politico, Not All Undocumented Immigrants Are Latino

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Participants in a 'Jericho March' and rally in support of the DREAM Act pray in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. The event was sponsored by Faith in Public Life. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images) | Getty Images/FILE

Politico made waves with an article published Monday that attempts to parse out the political efforts of a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.

The article argues that "pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now" would create a "bonanza" for Democrats, as some conservatives fear.

The overall thrust of the article makes sense. Latinos tend to vote more liberal than the general electorate, so if more Latinos become citizens, the trend will likely favor Democrats.

The article's math, however, doesn't hold water, as plenty of people have pointed out.

There's a lot of problems with the assumptions the article makes, but among the largest is that Politico assumes all undocumented immigrants are Latino.

They aren't. Of the estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States as of 2011, some 81 percent were born in Latin America, according to Pew Hispanic Center. So the actual figure of undocumented Hispanics is probably closer to 9 million.

Politico tried to shield itself from criticism by hedging:

The Politico analysis is intended to reflect the GOP’s broader dilemma on immigration issues; it is not meant to be specifically predictive. There is no way of knowing how many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers would ultimately succeed in gaining citizenship, nor any certainty of what their turnout percentages would be once they gain voting rights.

The disclaimer failed to convince. (For detailed analyses of Politico's faulty analysis, check out Jordan Fabian's piece at ABC News/Univision or Nate Cohn's article in the New Republic.)

The error is all the more important because Politico, for reasons that aren't clear, calculates the possible political effects of immigration reform based on the premise that all undocumented immigrants would become citizens, that 100 percent of them would turn out to vote, and that they would all vote along the lines Hispanics did in the 2012 presidential election. Overestimating the size of the Latino population, consequently, exaggerates all the other exaggerations.

Politico isn't alone in glossing over the fact that not all undocumented immigrants are Hispanic. The New Republic, for example, pounces on Politico's faulty assumptions, but never questions the "11 million undocumented Hispanics" figure.

Other outlets might have made the same mistake, but Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fl.) office put out a statement blasting the Politico report that clarified the point.

"Not all 11 million illegal immigrants here today will qualify to become citizens, and not all of the 11 million illegal immigrants are Hispanic," Rubio points out on his website.

Rubio's right, Politico is wrong, and the publication's error reinforces stereotypes.

Yet as of Tuesday evening, the publication hadn't fixed the mistake. It did, however, post a round up of criticism of the piece. That story noted that not all undocumented immigrants are Hispanic, but for some inexplicable reason cited Karl Rove referencing an unnamed study rather than the Pew Hispanic Center study that most news outlets use to estimate the size of the undocumented population and their countries of origin.

But the figure is not an issue of interpretation. It's not about two different but equally valid views of a subject colliding. It's an issue of fact. Politico should correct its mistake.

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