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Internet immigration hoax

November 28, 2007 |  6:00 am

Probably five times a week, the readers' representative office gets a question like this one received recently from Harvey Akeson of Tucson:

"Please help me, an e-mail is making the rounds stating the information is from the L.A. Times.  It may or may not be true.  Can you verify?   Thanks."

Such inquiries have come in for more than a year -- most by e-mail, some by telephone. From the beginning, the notes have shown signs of having been forwarded to many others, who then forward them to many others, before one of the recipients decides to check with the alleged source.

The answer is: The L.A. Times never ran such a story.

"If this doesn't open your eyes nothing will!" So begin most of the e-mails that readers forward to us. Though the endings vary -- a typical sign-off is, "Send copies of this letter to at least two other people.  100 would be even better" -- the bulk of the note always consists of 10 "facts" that they are told came from the L.A. Times. The hoax e-mail goes like this: 

1. 40% of all workers in L. A. County ( L. A. County has 10.2 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.
2. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
3. 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
4. Over 2/3 of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on  Medi-Cal,whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
5. Nearly 35% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
6. Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
8. Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
9. 21 radio stations in L. A. are Spanish speaking.
10. In L. A. County 5.1 million people speak English, 3.9 million speak Spanish.

(There are 10.2 million people in L. A. County)

Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 29% are on welfare.

Over 70% of the United States' annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration.

29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.

We are a bunch of fools for letting this continue. 

Here's the response we've sent to those who ask:

No article has appeared in The Times with this list. And some of these 'facts' appear to have been misleadingly edited from articles that appeared in the L.A. Times as long as 20 years ago and are now being cited inappropriately. When this Internet rumor started last year, The Times' opinion website looked into this hoax; here is the link to those findings: 

http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2007/02/some_memes_neve.html

One example of how this is inaccurate is the claim that a Times story reported that "over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages." This appears to misquote information from a May 24, 1987, article about the number of people living in garages in Los Angeles County. It reported that, at that time, about 42,000 garages were sheltering about 200,000 immigrants in L.A. County. That article provided detailed information explaining how the figures were arrived at but it did not allude to anyone's residency status.

Most readers thank us for the explanation and promise to get word back to those who forwarded the hoax e-mail. Added Akeson: "This hate stuff is very difficult because most people read it and pass it on without even thinking of facts or the hurt they are spreading."

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