Using fear of raids to estimate the numbers of illegal immigrants

it’s been clear for several years that if you want to find out how many workers are working illegally, spread a rumor and see how many don’t show up the next day. The NY Times ran an AP story on this phenomenon arising out of the big IFCO raid of last week, which I have blogged.
The article says: “Len Mills, executive vice president of Associated General Contractors of South Florida, estimated at least 50 percent of workers on construction jobs in the region had not shown up for work. ‘This is costing millions of dollars a day, and I don’t know who is going to pay for it,’ he said.”

Rumors of random sweeps were rampant from coast to coast Friday, prompting many immigrants to stay home from work, take their children out of school and avoid church. Their absences added to immigrants’ fears, as some thought their friends and co-workers had been arrested. Mills said he believed even some legal workers were afraid. Katie A. Edwards, executive director of Florida’s Dade County Farm Bureau, said nearly a third of farmworkers did not come to the fields this week.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency has received hundreds of calls about immigration raids in recent days. ”However, we don’t conduct random sweeps,” he said. ”All our arrests are the result of investigations, evidence and intelligence.” ICE officials acknowledged they have stepped up arrests under their ”Operation Phoenix,” an existing program to find and deport fugitive illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds.

On Friday, ICE announced the arrests of 106 illegal immigrant fugitives and 19 immigration status violators throughout the Midwest over the last 10 days. Of those, 46 had criminal records, according to the department. Earlier this week, ICE announced the arrest of 183 fugitives in Florida alone.