In the least shocking development you’re likely to hear of in the next few centuries, PolitiFact has rated a claim by Ann Coulter that there are 30 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S. illegally, or one-fourth of the entire population of Mexico, as a pants on fire lie.
Ramos opened the segment of his show America with Jorge Ramos by telling Coulter that her facts on the number of undocumented immigrants were wrong. In her book, she claimed there are 30 million. The consensus figure is about 11 million. Coulter was unfased.
“You’re wrong,” Coulter told Ramos. “The number we keep hearing is 11 million, 11 million, 11 million. That’s so weird. It’s been 11 million for a decade. But as I explain in the book, they are all using the Census figures. If the Census figures are wrong, then everybody’s numbers are wrong.”
Coulter said there is “absolutely no question” that the number is at least 30 million. She said the work of two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and a 2006 analysis by two Bear Stearns financial analysts supported her belief. We’ll touch on those items in a bit.
But arguably Coulter’s biggest numerical claim was that “America has already taken in one-fourth of Mexico’s entire population.” She said it during her interview with Ramos and included it as a bullet point on her website.
And here’s where the lie comes from:
In a sub-section titled “Doesn’t Mexico want any Mexicans?” Coulter grounds her statement about America taking in one-quarter of Mexico’s population on a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. The top line number in that study finds that about 33.5 million people of Mexican origin lived in the United States in 2011.
Coulter argues that since Mexico has about 120 million people, and one-quarter of that is 30 million, therefore, America has “taken in” one-quarter of the total.
In reality, the immigration data from Pew is not nearly as neat and tidy as Coulter concludes. The Pew report attempted to count the number of people who trace their roots back to Mexico, not people who came directly from that country.
Why does that make such a difference?
Well, about two-thirds of Americans with Mexican ancestry were born in the United States. By definition, they were never part of Mexico’s population.
If they weren’t Mexican, they could not be “taken in.”
The Pew definition is important, and if the numbers about Mexico don’t make it clear, let’s look at another country. We picked Ireland. In 2014, the Census Bureau said there were 34.1 million Americans with Irish roots. That’s nearly seven times Ireland’s current population.
And thus ends today’s lessons in how to lie with statistics. She’s also just wrong about the claim of 30 million immigrants:
“For illegals, we estimate 11 to 12 million with 50 to 60 percent from Mexico,” said Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research.
Jennifer Van Hook, who directs the Population Research Institute at Pennsylvania State University, said she believes the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the United States is 6.3 million-8.3 million. No matter how you slice it, Coulter’s claim doesn’t get any closer to true, she said.
“There is no way it is as high as 30 million,” Van Hook said.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates the total unauthorized population at 11 million. Director of research for American programs Randy Capps said figures produced by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey are just the starting point in determining that figure (the Census Bureau itself doesn’t create a count). The final estimate reflects a hike of “20 to 25 percent to address the undercount of unauthorized immigrants in the ACS.”
Capps emphasized that his group, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pew Research Center and the Center for Immigration Studies generally reach the same results because they all tweak the census data.
“All four of these sources incorporate an undercount of unauthorized immigrants ranging from 10 to 25 percent,” Capps said.
So the 11 million figure actually assumes an undercount and adjusts accordingly. The lesson, as always: Ann Coulter is a liar. PolitiFact tried to contact her but got no response, which is hardly surprising. She doesn’t care that she’s lying. She does it professionally. Her job is to fire up the rubes, not to tell the truth.