Media outlets provided Americans with only half the story last week when they reported widely on Bloomberg’s latest immigration poll. (Bloomberg News, June 19, 2012) That poll concluded that 64 percent of voters favored President Obama’s announcement that his Administration would stop deporting certain illegal aliens. (Id.)
However, what appears to be widespread report for the President’s new immigration policy is highly misleading because of the deficiency of the question at issue. The question Bloomberg actually asked respondents in its poll was the following:
President Obama announced that the U.S. would halt the deportation of some illegal immigrants if they came here before age 16, have been in the country for five years, have no criminal record, are in school or have a high school diploma or have been honorably discharged from the military. Do you agree or disagree with this new policy? (Id.)
The phrasing of this question no doubt led to a skewed outcome in favor of the policy. For example, the Bloomberg question asks voters whether they agree with the policy to stop deporting “some illegal aliens” who came to the U.S. “before the age of 16.” This suggests that the age limit for aliens to be eligible for “deferred action” (essentially a suspension of deportation) under the President’s new policy is 16. In fact, illegal aliens up to the age of 30 are eligible for deferred action under this policy; the alien must only establish that he or she entered the U.S. before the age of 16. Given these aliens entered the U.S. illegally and have no documentation to prove otherwise, the potential for fraud here is great.
Another failing of the Bloomberg question is that it asks voters whether they agree with the policy to stop deporting “some illegal immigrants” who “have no criminal record.” This is NOT what President Obama’s new policy states. First, President Obama’s new policy will allow Homeland Security to grant deferred action to illegal aliens if they have been convicted of two misdemeanors. This is not the equivalent of having “no criminal record.” Moreover, a young person could repeatedly come into contact with the criminal justice system and never technically receive a “conviction,” as minors are usually prosecuted through the juvenile justice system and adjudicated to be “delinquent” or “not delinquent.” (See, e.g., Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Case Flow Diagram) And with respect to aliens who are prosecuted as adults, a misdemeanor conviction may be — and often is — the result of a felony charge that was reduced through the plea-bargain process. An alien may also have a lengthy criminal record in another country which will not show up in a FBI criminal background check.
In addition to misrepresenting the eligibility of aliens with a criminal background, the Bloomberg question is misleading because it asks voters whether they agree with the policy to stop deporting “some illegal immigrants” who have been “honorably discharged from the military.” In general, illegal aliens are barred from serving in the military. “Unless the current law were to be changed, or an individual were declared by the services to be vital to the national interest, the services are not permitted to enlist illegal immigrants,” said a Department of Defense spokesperson. (Boston Globe, June 23, 2012) Nevertheless, the Bloomberg poll inserts service in the military into the question, undoubtedly evoking sympathy from responders.
Finally, the Bloomberg Poll was skewed in its sampling of responders. Bloomberg states it posed the question above to 734 likely voters who were weighted by age and race to reflect the general population based on recent census data. However, Powerline points out that the respondents polled skewed in favor of Democrats. “The respondents in [the Bloomberg poll] favored Democrats 48-41. So there was a nine-point swing in favor of Democrat-leaning respondents, which, combined with the margin of error, accounts for the poll’s skewed result.” (Powerline, June 20, 2012)