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Statistics for Dreamers a nightmare? Only if you don’t read them right

| Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sarah Kelly and Mary Guardino do an excellent job of discrediting Jeffrey Murphy’s “The statistics on Dreamers are a nightmare.” However, they did not need to do so much research. Murphy’s own sources are either irrelevant to his argument or even directly contradict it.

Murphy repeatedly confounds statistics for the DACA recipient population, the DACA age-eligible population and undocumented immigrants. They are not the same thing, and using these statistics interchangeably as he does is highly misleading. In his most egregious distortion, Murphy says, “According to research published by the Center for Immigration Studies, it is estimated that 24 percent of DACA-eligible illegal aliens are functionally illiterate.” The article cited does not even mention DACA, Dreamers or “illegal” or “undocumented” aliens. It is a study of Americans aged 16-74, some of whom are immigrants, which is very different from the DACA population. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says you can’t even be in DACA unless you came to the United States before age 16 and were under age 31 on June 15, 2012; have been in the United States for at least five years; are in or have completed high school or are in the armed services currently or have been honorably discharged; and must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors. Given the education and residency requirements for DACA members, it is highly unlikely that many of them are illiterate. Counter to his explicit claims, Murphy’s source never says that they are.

Murphy further argues, “A recent study published by the Crime Prevention Research Center … found that while illegal aliens between the ages of 15 and 35 comprise only 2 percent of Arizona’s population, they make up 8 percent of Arizona’s incarcerated population.” This unpublished study of one state talks about the DACA age-eligible population but, as already noted, there are more requirements for DACA than being the right age; and if the study does include any DACA members they should have quickly become non-members after their convictions. Further, Murphy also cites Tucker Carlson’s online publication The Daily Caller. That same article says, “DACA supporters say Dreamers are no more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens, and data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows that claim to be true. … those granted DACA status usually have clean criminal records. This is reflected in the relatively low number of Dreamers [0.3 percent] who’ve had their status revoked due to criminal activity.”

Murphy also decries how poorly educated DACA members are. He says, “In a research project led by Harvard professor Roberto G. Gonzales, it was revealed that 21 percent of DACA recipients have dropped out of high school. As the statistics reveal, Dreamers are vastly less academically successful than the native population.” I can’t find where Gonzales says that — Snopes suspects it applies to the DACA age-eligible population rather than to actual DACA recipients, who must meet educational or military service requirements — but in any event, given that Gonzales’ report is titled “Taking Giant Leaps Forward,” it is not surprising that he sees things differently. Gonzales writes, “[DACA] has provided opportunities for hundreds of thousands of unauthorized young people to take giant leaps in their education and careers … its impact is most felt by those young people who, because of barriers related to their immigration status, were forced into early exits from the school system. Because of DACA, these young people have returned to GED programs, workforce development, certificate programs and college campuses.” By removing barriers to education, DACA is transforming potential high school dropouts into college graduates or otherwise helping them acquire the skills needed to become productive contributors to U.S. society.

Many debates become a battle between competing sets of sources; but in this debate Murphy and I are using the same sources, ones that he picked. The difference is that I am citing them correctly. Lest some potential student fear my biases, I stress that in my classes students have praised me for offering both liberal and conservative viewpoints. I have given many As to papers I personally disagreed with but which were well-written and offered strong supporting evidence. But a paper is not well-written if its own sources contradict it.

Normally, I do not care if The Observer prints an article I disagree with; but in this case I feel compelled to speak out. Murphy’s piece does a great disservice to his DACA classmates who have fought to overcome adversity to get to Notre Dame and to the nearly 800,000 other DACA recipients nationwide. I hope no one is persuaded or harmed by his argument. I urge Murphy himself to reconsider it.

Richard Williams

associate professor of sociology

Aug. 27

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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