Monday, March 26, 2007

the politics of small numbers or more hazy numbers out of Hazleton

I read this quote in the PG yesterday:

The U.S. Census Bureau says Hazleton has a population of 22,000. But a demographics expert hired by the city testified that Hazleton has perhaps 33,000 residents, 10 percent of whom could be illegal immigrants. (italics added)
So, lets deconstruct this a bit. In the last few years, Hazleton now claims it's population ballooned from 22 thousand to 33 thousand, an increase of 50% or 11 thousand. They also claim that 10% or 3,300 of them could be undocumented immigrants. Here is some video from the plaintiff's lawyer on the veracity of the testimony that generated those numbers. I thought they were claiming that all of this increase in population came from new immigrants. Now it's a fraction of that growth is supposedly coming from immigrants.

Even if there were no undocumented immigrants there before (a silly presumption by the way) then at a minimum the vast bulk of these new residents, 7,700 or more are perfectly allowed to be there. If there were any immigrants in the city in 2000, then an even larger part of the population increase must be made up of citizens or other undeniably legal residents.

So let's trust those numbers for a minute. Also let's forget any new immigrants for a moment. A city the size of Hazleton, 22 thousand, faced with a rapid influx of nearly 8 thousand people (i.e. the legal migrants who must have moved in according to the city's numbers) over just a few years would face enormous problems. It would inevitably cause strains on all public services, shortages of housing, crowded conditions everywhere and increases in crime... again, this is no matter where these new residents were coming from and whether they were foreign born or not.

It seems to me that if the main argument for most of the new laws being proposed is to prevent all these negative consequences of growth, he ought to oppose anyone moving into Hazelton period. Even if nary another soul arrives in town for year, it will be a decade or more before the city builds out to accommodate all this recent in-migration of citizens. I suppose he could even go so far as to prevent any more migration of residents from New Jersey or New York. Hazleton could be a Pennsylvanian-only zone. Or if things were really getting bad, they could declare most of the town blighted and get Luzerne county redevelop most of into a vast park. That ought to solve some of the population problem... for Hazleton at least.


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