Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

« Previous Post | Readers' Representative Journal Home | Next Post »

10 'facts' about immigration -- not from The Times


In November 2007, this office addressed an e-mail hoax that was citing The Times as the source for 10 "facts" about immigration:

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.

Two and a half years later, this office still is receiving this e-mail, several times a week. "If this doesn't open your eyes, nothing will!" the e-mail begins. It continues with these 10 purported facts:

  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.

To repeat, The Times has never run an article that contains this list. And some of the items appear to have been misleadingly edited from articles that appeared as long as 20 years ago.

"It's like kudzu," said one editor who passed along yet another copy of the e-mail. "It will never die." 

Most readers who forward the e-mail to The Times say they find the claims suspect and want to verify the source. This office has a prepared response to these inquiries, which includes links to the 2007 Readers' Representative Journal post, an earlier post by The Times' Opinion L.A. blog, and a September 2009 column by Hector Tobar, the most recent effort to debunk the e-mail.

But as the immigration debate flares, the e-mail keeps spreading. Kudzu indeed.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Kudzu covers an abandoned truck. Credit: Doug Mizell /

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (4)

If 5.1 million people speak English and 3.9 million people speak Spanish in LA County, and the population of LA County is 10.2 million people, what do the other 1.2 million speak? This is assuming that there are no bilingual people in LA County, but what a marketing opportunity turned up by these 'facts'!

It's a shame the L.A. Times has to stoop to this level by having to address or respond to a hoax no doubt initiated by the millions of brain-dead minions of the wacky right. This is their MO...repeat and redistribute a lie often enough until it becomes ingrained in the heads of the populace (most of whom never bother to fact check or dispute).

Between xenophobia, nationalism, an Us vs. Them mentality and now their use of the Internet to spread their psycho philosophy, I fear for our country...I really do.

The lunatic fringe of the right is by far the greatest threat to our future as a nation. I married into a family that has several members of this type -- they are unyielding, extremely close-minded (even when the FACTS are presented to them point blank), and insist that their judgment or beliefs are sanctioned by "God." They are incapable of thinking outside of their tight little box and only associate with similar-minded people.

As an example, and on a personal couple in my wife's family (who are fundamentalist Christians) have children that suffer from ongoing health issues and a litany of ailments due to poor nutrition (they live on junk food). When my wife and I attempt to educate them on the benefits of whole/organic foods, proper nutrition, what foods to stay away from, etc., they turn a blind ear and laugh off our suggestions calling us "crazy environmentalists."

And by the way, I often get forwarded emails from them along similar lines as "If this doesn't open your eyes, nothing will!"

Correction: Of course I meant to write "...turn a deaf ear..." in my post.

I would suggest that after 2 and a half years of inquiries the Times would have run a story with the true numbers, point by point , to put this to rest.

This is the backup site for The Los Angeles Times. We'll post news and information if becomes inoperable or inaccessible.

this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


Have a story tip?

Please send to

Can I call someone with news?

Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.