Numbers and more numbers

40k-noidOne of the most annoying things about the news media is that they allow entities and individuals to make statements without being challenged on the veracity of the statement. This is especially true when it comes to demographic numbers bandied about for a specific cause. Last Tuesday, city council listened to 31 speakers speak on a request for the city to issue municipal identifications to residents of the city.

Let me be clear from the onset, I wholeheartedly support the City of El Paso issuing municipal identification cards to its residents regardless of legal status. As the speakers indicated during their presentations, identifications will solve many issues faced by many individuals, including the homeless, the mentally ill and domestic violence victims. I do not want my comments today to be misconstrued as unsupportive of the issuance of identity documents to residents of El Paso.

However, just as I continually write about political rhetoric and how it is used to manipulate public policy I have to also point it out when it is used to benefit something I happen to support.

According to the advocates of the municipal identity cards, there are 40,000 to 50,000 residents in El Paso without an identity document. From the moment I first heard that number bandied about, I questioned what methodology was used to arrive at the number. In other words, how accurate is that number?

Apparently, from the lack of reporting on the source of that number and the continued use by the news media as a reliable number I am the only one who questions its reliability. Stating that 40 to 50 thousand El Paso residents would benefit from a municipal identification card obviously carries more weight than stating that we suspect about 10,000 would benefit from it. Even acknowledging the truth that no one really knows how many El Paso residents lack identification, in my opinion, would be better.

For me this is important because much of the rhetoric about immigration reform will center on nebulous numbers of how immigrants are abusing the system. The numbers thrown about seem to come out of thin air and the debates end up being driven by them.

During the presentation to city council, the various supporters for a municipal identification took care to point out that the identification was needed by certain population segments carefully avoiding the obvious undocumented immigrants as potential beneficiaries. The Homeless Coalition pointed out that the lack of identification was a barrier to the homeless population. Similarly, the argument was made on behalf of the mentally ill and domestic violence victims. They even through in the transgender population into the mix.

Is El Paso that seriously in trouble that there are 40,000 or more individuals that are victims of domestic violence, or mentally ill individuals with the homeless mixed in as well? Of course not, but the 40,000 plus number hasn’t been challenged by anyone, not even the news media.

Was there a census conducted of people without any identification? Is the number a compilation of various census sources? If so which ones? Human trafficking was also mentioned as being part of the population lacking an identification card.

One speaker even stated that there is “an immigrant population out of Ft. Bliss” that lacks proper identification. This, on the same day that Fort Bliss issued a Press Release telling the community that effective January 28, 2015 “100% identification card check” is being implemented. Therefore, anyone wanting to get on base will require a valid identification card.

From the statement that the speaker made, one-out-of-31, many things can be inferred. For example, are soldiers bringing in undocumented people unto Ft. Bliss, or marrying them, or are there El Paso residents that lack identification that are dependents of the soldiers that cannot get on base now? As you can see, I can go on and on inferring many scenarios.

However, none of those would account for the nebulous 40,000 to 50,000 number being used.

Obviously, the number is being used to get the politicians to agree to issue municipal identification cards. I happen to believe that is a good thing, but is making up a number to get something done the right thing to do?

I do not happen to believe the number because I question how it was derived. As such, I do not believe it is a reliable number to be used to base any argument on. Yet, it seems, from the lack of news media reporting that I am the only one questioning the veracity of the number.

Why is that?

In her report, Diana Washington was the only reporter that bothered to ask where the 40,000 to 50,000 number came from. Washington quoted Gabriela Castañeda as stating that the number, an estimate, came from the Pew Research Center.

Good, I thought to myself, finally, I could look at the source of the number and better understand how it relates to the policy agenda. I Googled for information and I even went to the Pew Research Center’s website and looked for a report on the number of people without identification. It was a futile search. Before giving up, I submitted a request to the Pew Research Center asking them to point me in the right direction. I am sure you know what the response from Pew Research Center was.

We haven’t done any research on those who lack identification.” There you have it; the much-touted number does not come from the only source quoted.

However, my feeling is that the number that is being bandied about is an estimate of the number of undocumented residents living in the city. This is important because Washington quoted Manuel Escobedo as stating that the municipal identification issue “has zero to do with immigration status.”

Again, to be crystal clear I am an immigrant and I believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect as well as to be allowed to live their lives irrespective of their immigration status. As a matter of fact, I advocate for an open border status in both Mexico and the United States. Because I suspect that the municipal identification is about facilitating immigrant lives, as well as the other examples given, that fact should not be hidden or distracted from just to make it more palatable to all.

We need to start having the immigration discussion openly and publicly and stop living in the shadows. If the 40 to 50 thousand without identification includes immigrants, then so be it. Don’t keep hiding them in the shadows.

More importantly, I question the number because many public policy agendas are promoted and driven by numbers uttered by proponents and those opposed to policy and yet the news media just regurgitates the numbers without questioning their veracity. Maria Garcia did this on her report on the municipal identification issue for KVIA.

Let me bring the numbers issue closer to your pocket books. What would the scenario be today in regards to EPISD if some reporter had stopped the building frenzy by questioning the notion that Ft. Bliss was going to need as many schools as everyone was talking about.

I clearly remember the rhetoric going through the business groups, we need to build, build and build some more because the soldiers are coming. It was all about the gravy train and no one dared to challenge the notion of the reality of the numbers. The chambers of commerce were giddy about the business opportunities and in the end; the El Paso Hispanic Chamber quietly acknowledged that the local contractors were being bypassed because none of them could be bonded. Oh, they will argue all sorts of excuses today and even tell you they never said that but I was in the meetings where this reality was finally acknowledged. Now, El Paso has too many schools.

Likewise, if some news reporter had bothered to ask the simple question of how is it that a for-profit company, always looking for ways to make more money for investors, looked at the El Paso market for a children’s hospital and promptly proclaimed there was no money in it. Yet, the El Paso illustrious politicians saw so much money in it that they proclaimed a stand-alone children’s hospital would make money as soon as it came online.

How true is that today?

Public policy agendas are promoted on nebulous numbers seemingly plucked from thin air and the news media just eats them up without asking the simple questions.

But, you do not understand, you do not know how little time we have to gather the information and rush it to the viewers/readers is the collective groans from the news media. That excuse is old and tired.

I am a simple blogger living almost 2,000 miles away and yet, to my knowledge, I’m the only one questioning whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is, in fact, exempt from public disclosure. I am the only one that has challenged that assertion through two open records requests.

The news media just accepts it as fact and doesn’t bother to question the secrecy of the negotiations. Just as numbers coming out of nowhere promote public policy so do the numerous assertions of the public doesn’t need to know that or doesn’t want the information is the reason why El Paso continues to be dominated by the perception of corruption in all its public spaces.

7 thoughts on “Numbers and more numbers

  1. Good points, regardless of one’s position on immigration we have a responsibility to listening, not just hearing or reading information being disseminated by the media and the government. Hasnt the media made errors with reporting?

    El Paso has a bad habit of accepting information from anyone with a degree or title without question. Is the number of people without degrees or a high school diploma so high that having a degree makes one infallible?

    Martin, the homeless and mentally ill will always be without ID . So issuing an El Paso ID will solve not that problem. In any case how do they prove their identity to get an ID card? Applications would be accepted on face value or whatever is found in a back pack? What if it cant be verified ? Are these people receiving government benefits, they had to prove their identity to receive the benefits. A SSA letter as prove? What if it was found or taken or being shared?

    Domestic violence? Surely they can access documents with a police escort, family or friends might have some proof. Did they arrive from another region via the Women’s Underground, that organization helps them with identification which would require a change. The US government can assist with a change if police or court documents are presented as proof of a need to change the ssn.

    People from foreign countries that arrived thru another “method of entry”. Citizens of Mexico, for example, would have their voters ID. If it was lost while in transit, friends or family can assist them by sending documentation. Fleeing an unsafe situation ? That has to be verified anyway and Immigration would verify and assist. People from other countries, we do not know how they got here or why they came, so an ID is provided by El Paso without any verification of any facts? That’s a can of worms. Imagine the mess should any of these people commit a crime in another city? Prints could reveal the correct ID or the applicant becomes involved involved in activities of a terrorist type, either in a direct role or support or just association ?

    There are too many pit falls and El Paso have better do some serious research before just arbitarilary issuing an ID because they want to be nice. Not everyone is going to be truthful. All it takes is ONE to commit a series crime in another city and it is determined that they are really someone else, other than they stated at city hall.

    But, then this discussion is irrevelant because El Pasoalways wants to be like another city so the IDs WILL be issued. Wonder how many remember being asked by their parents “so if your friends jump off a cliff, you’re going to jump too?” There is a lesson to be learned in that question.

  2. May as well just call it the Anchor Baby Card because that’s what they are here for. Bad idea and one more thing a city has no business doing.

  3. If a card is issued by a governmental agency, then an ‘undocumented immigrant’ is no longer undocumented. His legal status will be changed to someone who is recognized by the US government, and therefore in the country with a legal document that says he is recognized as a resident of the US with a recognized address of residence. With one card, you effectively wipe out the immigration code.

    ‘Undocumented’ and ‘illegal’ really means ‘unrecognized’. If a terrorist organization is negotiated with by other countries, they are no longer a terrorist organization, they are a recognized entity that can come to a literal or figurative negotiation table. The US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, and we don’t issue ID cards to people who are not citizens, and we should not change that policy. If we recognize an undocumented or illegal immigrant with a government issued ID card, we make them legal and documented – or, a citizen.

    This is a ploy to change immigration laws without the mess and hassle of actually changing the laws, and it is wrong.

    1. Patricia, as an immigrant who has gone through various immigration processes including one as I write this, you are completely off base with your comments. When you approach a United States port of entry (land, air or sea) you are asking for permission to be allowed into the United States. This is true even if you are a US citizen. US citizens cannot just waltz in without being inspected, processed and allow in by an agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Once a US citizen has established their citizenship they are then processed under customs/tariffs laws for taxation and security purposes.

      Foreign citizens are processed under two broad (there are exceptions for diplomats) processes, one is for resident aliens, so called green-card holders and temporary visitors under a myriad of designations. Resident aliens have permission to live and reside in the US and are processed as such. Whereas all others must present a visa for countries of origin without US visa waivers or under another mechanism such as the Cuban feet-dry policies or other refugee designations.

      In all cases, it is that ICE official that allows you into the country under the scheme that you fall under at the time, whether citizen or other designation. In no case is being allowed into the country convey an official recognition by the United States government that the person is “recognized as a resident of the US.” That is done through another process. I am pointing this out because it is important for what I’m describing next.

      In regards to your assertion that a municipal identification card will somehow convey a recognition that the holder is a “recognized” resident of the US or that it “wipes out immigration code” shows that you do not understand immigration code, laws and rules, at all.

      As spelled out by the Constitution of the United States, only the federal government can convey the legal status for a foreigner to live in the United States. There is no debate on this as it has been recognized since the country’s inception through the numerous immigration acts that have been adopted and presidential orders decreed. No state or municipality can convey legal immigration status to anyone.

      There is nothing that a municipal identification can do for anyone in regards to their immigration status. Just like TSA does not accept a conceal carry permit, issued by a state, for boarding an aircraft so will other federal government entities not accept an El Paso issued municipal identification as authority to live and work in the United States. Remember, no state or municipality has the authority to deport anyone, only the federal government can do that. Therefore, only the federal government can convey the status of “resident of the US.”

      These types of comments only exasperate the immigration discussion because they are based on erroneous information that is used to support one side of the debate over another. Just to be clear, an El Paso issued municipal identification card will not convey any legal authority to any immigrant to be in the country. Only the federal government can do that.

      Thank you for participating on my blog,
      Martin

      1. I gotta be honest with you, Martin, I didn’t read your whole reply because it was incredibly wordy. I understand the federal government is the only entity that can confer citizenship, but ID cards are a slippery slope and will set a precedent that a smart lawyer will be able to use. If you are undocumented right now and you are given a card issued by a governmental entity of the US, you are, by definition, no longer undocumented. That changes a legal status whether you like it or not. It is a legal document issued by a governing body in the US.

  4. Martin,
    The City of El Paso already has an ID card system in place. If you are hired as a city employee, you will receive an ID card. Everyone else is welcome to apply for an ID card at the Texas Department of Public Safety office. The City of El Paso taxpayers should not be in the ID card business for any special interest group.

  5. “The City of El Paso taxpayers should not be in the ID card business for any special interest group.”
    ————————————————————————————
    Golfer; you are absolutely right. The city is already too busy taking care of the special interest groups that pay their mordida to CC.

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