Immigration hawks don’t seem to excel at math.
Former Colorado Congressman and proud immigration reform opponent Tom Tancredo defended Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) controversial comments about undocumented youth in an article for a rightwing blog. Tancredo offered what he referred to as a “mathematical exercise” to determine the accuracy of King’s assertion that for every 1 undocumented valedictorian, 100 are drug mules with hefty legs.
“There is no way to know the exact ratio of valedictorians to drug smugglers among the 1.7 million illegal aliens the Pew Hispanic Center says will qualify for Obama’s ‘Deferred Action’ amnesty program,” Tancredo writes for World Net Daily. “But just for fun, let’s do the math.”
He starts off the math by assuming that “up to 20 percent” of the estimated 1.7 million DREAMers “might be visa overstays and not border jumpers.” It’s not clear where he’s pulling that figure from (we’re assuming he just made it up). We haven’t seen a figure for how many undocumented immigrants under 30 overstayed visas, but the figure for all undocumented immigrants is roughly 40 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Tancredo then posits that all the other, non-visa overstays, crossed the Southwest border -- a figure he likely overestimates by more than 300,000, at 1.36 million.
He then points out that many of Mexico’s drug cartels are also involved in human trafficking. So if human smugglers require 10 percent of the immigrants who arrived by crossing the border illegally to carry a load of marijuana -- a percentage that Tancredo simply makes up -- that would make 136,000 drug-hauling migrants. Out of "generosity," he rounds the number down to 100,000, meaning that, by Tancredo’s back-of-the-napkin calculations, there’d have to be 1,000 DREAMer valedictorians to invalidate King’s 100 mules-to-valedictorian claim.
There’s a few problems with Tancredo’s assessment. Most importantly, he has no evidence to back up any of these claims. With the exception of the Pew study’s estimate of the DREAMer population, the only figures Tancredo cites are numbers that emanated from within his own mind. We don’t know whether it’s a common practice, or something that Tancredo simply imagines.
Even if the practice were as widespread as Tancredo supposes, it’s clear that he isn’t talking about criminals with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” as King said. It sounds like the situation he’s referring to is that of someone forced by an organized crime syndicate to commit a crime.
The Washington Post scored King’s claim as false, giving it four Pinocchios.
The Fact Checker blog noted that the only evidence King has provided to back up his claim about undocumented youth trafficking drugs is an article by the Associated Press noting an increase in the number of youths involved in the drug trade in Mexico. Those youths were Mexican nationals residing in Mexico, however, not undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“King’s claim about valedictorians and smugglers is a nonsense fact, designed to suggest an aura of authenticity to an otherwise objectionable statement,” Greg Kessler wrote for the Washington Post. “If a politician is going to say stuff like this, he or she has to be prepared to back it up with actual facts.”
Tancredo isn't the first immigration hawk to use invented math to make his case against reform. Pundit Ann Coulter wrote in a column published earlier this month that immigration reform would give the Democratic Party 30 million, a wild overestimate based on made-up statistics and faulty reasoning.