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Huck's Pakistani immigration numbers

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
OTTUMWA, IA -- In a conference call with reporters held this afternoon Huckabee cited an article from the Denver Post written by Bruce Finley as the source for his information on the number of illegal Pakistani immigrants who have entered the U.S.

"The number came from homeland security," Huckabee said, referring to his speech this morning where he claimed that 660 illegal Pakistani immigrants entered the U.S. last year. "There are two stories that are published that report that number. One is Bruce Finley of the Denver Post, and there is also a Jim Pinkerton column in which that is mentioned. And that's where that figure, they were quoting Homeland Security on that number."

Later in the call, Pinkerton said that his article referenced Finley's, meaning that Finley's March 2006 article is the source of the misleading information. Although that number is included in the Denver Post's article in association with Pakistani immigrants, it is in reference to "non-Mexican migrants caught entering the United States illegally in fiscal years 2002 to 2005," not the number that entered last year.

This morning Huckabee also claimed, "We have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border." This sentence paraphrases a sentence written by Finley, which is admittedly limited in scope.

In his article Finley writes that non-Mexican migrants "came mostly from Central America and Brazil. Also among them were: Iranians (95), Iraqis (74), Pakistanis (660), Syrians (52), Yemenis (40), Egyptians (106) and Lebanese (91)." Then Finley goes on to write that the list of countries he has chosen to report on comes from a list of "35 'special-interest' nations the State Department lists as hotbeds for terrorism," and not a true ranking of the largest numbers of illegal nationals across the board.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the number of illegal Pakistani immigrants caught in FY 2007 falls behind both the Philippines and China when it comes to countries outside the Western Hemisphere. In FY 2007, ICE reported catching 435 Pakistanis, 766 Chinese, 521 Filipinos and 600 Indians.

In fact, NBC's Michael Kosnar reports that according to officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security, illegal Pakistani immigrants aren't even in the list of top 25 nationalities of immigrants who cross the border illegally.

According to estimates released by the Department of Homeland Security in August, the largest ethnic group of illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. who are not originally from the western hemisphere -- i.e. not from "immediately south of the border" -- are Indians. There are an estimated 270,000 illegal Indian nationals residing in the U.S. as of January 2007, which is an increase of 125 percent over the same estimates in 2000.

Meaning, it is completely plausible that if Indians were included in Finley's list as an ethnic category of non-Mexican migrants caught at the border between FY 2002 and 2005, it could be much higher than Pakistan's.

Then again, Finley does not cite the source of those numbers in the original article -- which was published in March of 2006 -- but according to the ICE spokesperson the only official numbers released by the government are the number of illegal immigrants who are caught crossing. Such a number may be a representative sample of the true breakdown of illegal immigrants residing in the country, but they are far from precise.

The ICE spokesperson also said that numbers for illegal immigrants who successfully cross the border each year are impossible to calculate and are often only provided by think tanks as estimates.