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Roundtable: Cancer in Jail; Sea Wall Lawsuits; Frogs With Fungus; Mice With Alzheimer's; Undocumented Millions

May 17, 2013 11:53 a.m.

HOST

Mark Sauer

GUESTS

Kelly Davis, Associate Editor, San Diego CityBeat

Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times

David Wagner, KPBS News

Adrian Florido, KPBS/Fronteras Desk

Related Story: Roundtable: Cancer in Jail; Sea Wall Lawsuits; Frogs With Fungus; Mice With Alzheimer's; Undocumented Millions

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

SAUER: Good afternoon. I'm Mark Sauer. Welcome to the Roundtable on Midday Edition. Joining me are Kelly Davis of San Diego City beat.

DAVIS: Hey, Mark.

SAUER: Tony Perry.

PERRY: Hello.

SAUER: David Wagner, Science and Technology reporter for KPBS news.

WAGNER: Hey, Mark.

SAUER: And Adrian Florido of the KPBS Fronteras desk.

FLORIDO: Hi, Mark.

SAUER: Robin Reed realized she was breaking the law when she opened a business offering "full-body massage." She was busted by undercover officers. Her lawyer thought she'd get off with a misdemeanor, but then she got a felony and some tragic news. Tell us how she ended up in jail.

DAVIS: Well, under prison realignment, which is a legislation that passed in 2011 to try to help shrink California's overcrowded prisons, the governor, Jerry Brown, signed legislation that would move nonviolent, non-risk prisoners -- or low-risk prisoners who would otherwise go to state prison will now go to county jail.

SAUER: Out of state prison and to the county level.

DAVIS: Yeah. So before realignment, the average jail stay was 75 days, not very long. Folks didn't serve more than a few months.

SAUER: In county jail?

DAVIS: Yeah. A year at the most. Now you've got people serving three years, four years, ten years. So Robin would have otherwise gone to prison to serve her four year, but instead she's serving it in county jail.

SAUER: And tell us about Robin. What happened to her? And she had a 4-year prison sentence originally, and -- but she got some tragic news in the meantime.

DAVIS: Yeah, she has a history of breast cancer. And it's recurred, and most recently spread to her liver, her bone, and she found out about a week before my story was published that it's spread to her brain. So she does get out for four days a week to have chemotherapy and recover from the therapy. It's a unique deal that the District Attorney agreed to. But she also has to go and check herself back in every week. So now she's dealing with this new diagnosis of how she's going to proceed. And on Monday, she's going to have to go turn herself back into jail.

SAUER: Now, she in that time there that she was in jail, there was a delay, was there not? In getting the proper diagnosis?

DAVIS: In 2010 she was arrested for running this massage business. And it's not easy to get quality medical treatment in jail. Jails are not designed to deal with sick people. So she suspected her cancer had recurred. And getting hooked up with an oncologist, getting a CT scan was very difficult. She showed me her medical can forms in which she was writing urgent, please help, I'm in severe pain, I can feel a tumor in my liver, and it took months to get her that treatment.

SAUER: With an aggressive cancer, those couple months is a critical time.

DAVIS: And since then, she's still alive because she's got a great team of doctors. She got hooked up with some kind of experimental chemo drugs and they would work, and then they stopped working. She's been fighting, fighting, fighting. But I talked to her doctor, her current doctor, and it's not looking good.

PERRY: So who's paying for this great team of doctors?

DAVIS: She's paying for it. If she didn't get the deal where she was out four days a week for treatment, the county would be paying for her medical bills. She would be taken to the hospital for chemo, guarded, shackled to a bed if she were a full-time inmate. She's on the hook for her medical bills because she gets out four days a week.

PERRY: And she has insurance.

DAVIS: Yeah.

SAUER: Let's circle back to realignment, the program where the state under federal order had to 11 the crowding in the state prisons, and they came up with this system to move prisoners down to the county level. If she were a state prisoner, tell us about the compassionate release program and where she might be at this point.

DAVIS: The California department of corrections and rehabilitation, if their doctors determine someone has less than six months to live or someone is medically incapacitated, they can initiate a court hearing to get that person released. There is no system in place right now in the county jail level. There was a law passed, legislation, it took effect January1st, 2013, that would allow the sheriff to decide if someone was too sick or incapacitated to stay in the jail. But it first requires the state to come up with a program to ensure that once those people are released, they're not just turned out on the streets with no healthcare. And getting that system into place is creating a whole new program to. Create that program requires guideline, and it's just taking a really long time. So you have folks who are like Robin who are stuck and waiting, not sure when the guidelines are going to be finalized.

PERRY: Isn't there one person that could wave a witness stand and bust her out? The district attorney?

DAVIS: Yes, and Dumanis's office, they think they've -- her spokesperson told me that they've tried their best to work with Robin and with her attorney and have granted her this unique four days a week release from jail. But I pushed them to say, well, letting her out, what harm will that do? Put a GPS device, give her probation requirements. But I couldn't --

PERRY: Is this her first bust? And she was --

DAVIS: Yes.

PERRY: And she was sentenced to what? Prostitution? Running a house?

DAVIS: The charges were I believe pimping and pandering. Even though here masseuses were independent contractors. She ran -- she had four houses that she rented, and the girls would be there.

PERRY: So she ran a lot of girls.

DAVIS: 18, I think, yeah.

PERRY: And did they get hit for prostitution?

DAVIS: They were described as prostitutes in court document, but none of them were ever arrested.

SAUER: What about any customers arrested?

DAVIS: No, only Robin.

SAUER: Okay. And the county's response is this is as far as we can go. We don't have a compassionate release. We're not at the state level here. On the four days when she's out, she's not fleeing, she's going back into jail. Hasn't she demonstrated that this would be workable if she were out and getting proper care?

DAVIS: That's what's rather amazing to she. She parks her car a few blocks from the jail, and on Thursdays waltzes on out, she's always showed back up on Mondays. The jail can take up to two hours to check her out and back in. And the deputies will say to her I can't -- I can't believe I have to do this. Why are they doing this to you? She's proven she's not a threat to public safety because when she's out, she's pretty much unsupervised.

PERRY: And how much longer will this go on?

DAVIS: Because of -- she had already served almost six months in 2010, and because of good time credits, it'll go until December2014.

PERRY: But she'll be dead by that time.

DAVIS: Yeah, unfortunately.

SAUER: It sounds like terminal is the word we're talking about.

DAVIS: Yeah, once cancer has recurred this many times and spread to the brain, it just -- yeah.

SAUER: As far as you know, is she unique among prisoner, male or female? Are there other folks who would be in the compassionate release category if they were in state prison before realignment and are now in the county limbo?

DAVIS: I tried to find out from the DA. No one has the same agreement she has right now. But Robin has talked to women who do have to be escorted to their chemotherapy treatments.

SAUER: Out of Las Colinas?

DAVIS: Yes. I think it's something because realignment is still pretty new, it's something that the jails are learning about. So I don't know how many folks might qualify. Up in LA, they estimated only about ten a year. These also have to be people who won't be a threat to public safety if they're released.

SAUER: And they wouldn't be here under realignment if they were serious hardened state criminals.

FLORIDO: She actually said she would like to get into the prison system?

DAVIS: Only because if she had been sentenced to prison time, they have a process in place for compassionate release. So she would have been able to initiate that process. And who knows how long it takes?

SAUER: How did you learn about this story?

DAVIS: We did a series on deaths in county jails and she e-mailed me and said let me tell you my story!

SAUER: What kind of reaction have you gotten to your story? Is there a group of supporters out there saying free Robin?

DAVIS: People are pretty appalled. I think a lot of folks know someone who's been through chemotherapy and know how unpleasant it can be and how the side effects can just be really, really hard to deal with. And the thought of -- in my story, I talk about how she had a headache. And she had to resort to pounding on her cell door and screaming please help, I need some Tylenol. My head hurts. And it took her two hours until she was finally able to get Tylenol.

PERRY: When she go back to Las Colinas on Thursdays, is there a special medical ward or they just throw her in with general population?

DAVIS: She's in a medical unit, but it's also women who -- it's single cells, and it's women who can't be put in the general population because they're violent. So she's along -- part of this line of cells where it's just all-day screaming and yelling and pounding. And she's listening to that noise and hearing these women. And it's not very pleasant.

FLORIDO: She has private insurance?

DAVIS: Yeah, she is fully insured.

FLORIDO: So would it be safe to assume even or to suspect that a lot of the women who are in there don't have private insurance and don't have even that recourse who might be in the state prison system and just be dying because they can't get the treatment they need?

DAVIS: In the state prison someone, if someone is released under compassionate release, they'll get hooked up with Medi-Cal. And that is what is supposed to happen under the bill in someone is released from county jail. But it's just putting that in place first that's taking some time.

SAUER: We're going to have to wrap it there.

SAUER: A classic Southern California conflict has played out for decades in Solana Beach. Now it's coming to a head. Solana beaches features soaring beach bluffs, great houses, and great ocean views. What keeps them from becoming part of the scenery are massive sea walls. Those walls, the homeowners say, are an invasive eyesore to many. Tony, tell us why the game is changing and who is mad about the new rules.

PERRY: Everybody seems to be mad about something or another. 2-mile long beach in Solana Beach, and the waves crash and eat away at the bluffs, and there are those nice condos south of Fletcher Cove. And the ocean keeps doing what it does. And there have been beach walls there. But we moved in in 1979, lived a year there and moved away, and the walls were there, some of them, and it was an issue there at that time. What has happened now is enter the coastal commission. The coastal commission has always been involved, but they're involved even more so now because the city at long last, last city in San Diego County to do this, got a local coastal plan approved by the coastal commission. And part of that plan calls for a 20-year limit on your seawall permit. Everything that is currently built gets grandfathered. But to build a new wall, expand the wall, make it better, boom. 20-year limit, and you've got to tear it down or prove that you really need it after 20 years. That's not going to help the resale value of your condo or single-family home. Of on the other side, are the Surf Rider Foundation has at long last, Solana Beach has grown teeth. And a geologist will tell you the wall eats away at the beach, makes the beach smaller. So the public gets less of a beach as the homeowners get a protected view situation. So we've got a clash between the public use of the beach and the private property of folks that live on the bluff atop the beach.

SAUER: And their property values.

FLORIDO: This is interesting just even the idea that 20 years later you would need -- after 20 years of erosion, you would need a seawall less than you would 20 years before is interesting.

PERRY: Exactly. And they say we're going to need these walls forever and ever, mother nature being what she is. And also walls need to be reinforced, produced up every few years. So that 20-year permit limit is going to be a biological clock ticking away. And it's going to hurt your resale value. Enter the coastal commission and soon thereafter lawyers! Now we've got five lawsuits pending in Supreme Court challenging various aspects of the local coastal plan passed by the city, particularly the 20-year limit. Like all major disputes in our society, it's going to court.

SAUER: One of the attorneys for the homeowners, Jonathan Corn, he's been successful so far.

PERRY: In neighboring Encinitas, they have the same 20-year limit. They don't have as many homes lined up against the water. But they have the same 20-year limit. He litigated that in favor of a couple. Homeowners, and a Supreme Court judge said this 20-year limit seems sneaky, like a way to take your property without paying for it, I'm striking it down. Not a precedent setting. So even though that was in Encinitas, it doesn't shape the Solana Beach cases. Although I would imagine Mr. Corn will be arguing the same ideas that, hey, the city by saying you've got to come in in 20 years is taking my clients' property without paying for it! Foul, he's going to claim! Surf Rider, coastal commission will say no, we're protecting the beach for the public.

SAUER: Another arrow in the homeowners' quiver in that regard. The walls themselves, what do they look like?

PERRY: Some are elaborate and expensive. One is 250feet long, protecting five homeowners, that's half a million dollars each to protect your property. Several concrete, thick to look natural, they're elaborate and tall, 30-40 feet. There's a reason the Surf Rider foundation refers to the area not as Solana Beach but as Solana wall. Now, the homeowners and their attorney will say, you know what? You know what this does? This keeps the bluff from tumbling down and falling on people. We have had five deaths along our coast because of tumble-downs and cave-ins. None in Solana Beach. They say people ought to be congratulating the walls and their owners rather than trying to take them to task.

WAGNER: I know you said you're not a geologist, but there was some interesting stuff about soil in this community and erosion. I'm just wondering, we're talking about 20 year periods right now. But from a more geological perspective, looking long-term, is this ultimately a losing battle considering how coastal communities are changing?

PERRY: Good question, for which a good answer does not readily appear. It is hard to challenge mother nature and that inexorable impact of water washing in. Now, some of the erosion is from top down. And what happens there, there's a stratum of soil there that is particularly crumbly in Solana Beach, committee rains and winds, it tumbles down. If there were no walls there, it would hit the beach, spread out, and make it more difficult for the waves to come all the way in and start eating away at the bluffs. Now, with walls, that sand comes tumbling down. But it stays behind the wall. Nothing blocks the waves from rolling in and hitting the wall. And that decreases the amount of public beach. It also decreases, I'm told by people who've studied this, it decreases the amount of sand that the waves can bring in. Sound moves north to south and replenishes itself, we hope. But they say because of the walls and the flattening out of the beach, there is nothing to stop the water from crashing into the walls. And the energy transference moves back out into the water and keeps the waves from bringing sand in that they would otherwise bring in. Again, I'm an English major talking about geology.
[ LAUGHTER ]

PERRY: But that's how I understand it. There are other geologists who say bologna! It's those gizmos in Oceanside and camp Pendleton, and they block the flow of water north to sand. So gentlemen, start your geologists! We're going to court.

SAUER: The beach there is pretty different from a lot of the beaches along our coastline in San Diego County. You think beach, mission beach and the big broad beach. But this is a whole -- bluffs protruding.

PERRY: Indeed, and some of the homes are kind of hanging out.

SAUER: Right as you walk up there and talk to the homeowners, we may be falling over.

PERRY: It's akin to the Coppertone girl and her rear end in her 2-piece. Those homes are hanging out pretty large. And the waves pre-wall -- was eating away. Even post-wall, erosion is still eating away. So you build a sidewall. There are always walls, and people willing to take your money to build them. But disclosure, having lived in Solana Beach many years ago, it's a great beach. It's just a marvelous beach. But at high tide, that sucker comes all the way up to the wall, and you better -

SAUER: You better be moving your blanket.

PERRY: Exactly! On the other hand, you better be careful. Don't spread your blanket close to a non-wall part of the bluff or down comes the bluff and catches you, as it did one day as I was there as a journalist. And some fellow was nude sun bathing, next thing he was covered by sand and broken bones.

SAUER: Speaking of Black's Beach.

PERRY: Indeed. People will say I'll just spread my carcass out near the bluffs there.

SAUER: And don't look upward.

PERRY: And then boom. Or Encinitas had one. A lady was watching her boyfriend surf. And she did not survive. It was terrible.

DAVIS: Opponents of the walls say that the walls make the beach less loser friendly. But I would imagine that homes, pieces of homes coming down would also make it not very user friendly. What's the other option for keeping these homes from falling off the cliff?

PERRY: Well, the coastal commission folks say think long-term, homeowners am move back. If you're going to remodel, move back. Or if you buy anew there, think teardown and move back. A lot of the lots are fairly narrow, but they're deep. So think further back from the bluff, and you'll be better off.

FLORIDO: And some people are starting to get the hint. The attorney who is now representing the homeowners in their can to save their seawalls, himself was sued a while back, won the lawsuit and was able to keep the seawall, but then decided to move inland.

PERRY: Exactly. Now his two children are of surf age and are angry to learn that the family used to live on the beach and now lives in Santee or Jamul or somewhere. So long-term. Think long-term. Mother nature doesn't change her laws to adjust to property owners. On the other hand, living near the beach is nice.

SAUER: Over decades, you have to start thinking climate change and global warming. It just exacerbates it.

PERRY: In that whole 70-mile stretch, if global warming is real and indeed the water does rise, we're in for a lot of problems from Oceanside all the way down to imperial beach.

SAUER: This could be the first taste of this sort of battle.

PERRY: Exactly. And property problems and you name it.

SAUER: With apologies to John Steinbeck, let's call this next segment of mice and frogs. David, you reported on two very interesting science stories involving critters this week. The scarier story, the African clawed frog. What is it and how did it get here?

WAGNER: They are water-dwelling frogs that as their name implies, that I come from Africa, but you can find them all over the world now because they were imported all over the world in the early 20th century for a pretty -- a reason that might surprise listeners. They were used in pregnancy tests up until the 1960s. And that worked by you would inject a woman's urine into these frogs, and if the frog produced eggs, congratulations, you're pregnant. When that procedure -- when doctors did away with it, the frogs just stayed.

SAUER: And they're voracious. Your story cited that they eat things.

WAGNER: Yeah, they outcompete other amphibians in the native systems. They'll eat anything. They'll eat their own. They're cannibals.

SAUER: What's happening with them now? What's the problem with these frogs?

WAGNER: The problem with them is that they carry this fungus, let's call it the chytrid fungus, and they're not susceptible to this infection. They carry it, they're fine. But they spread it to a bunch of vulnerable frogs. And just worldwide this has been contributing to a massive deadline in populations.

SAUER: Any species in California been wiped out?

WAGNER: Yeah, well, are the Sierra Nevada yellow legged frog is dangerously close to being wiped out. Researchers are keeping their eye on that.

SAUER: And this fungus is directly going after it.

WAGNER: Yeah, they're susceptible to this. I think worldwide, something on the order of 200 species have been eliminated, including one of my favorites which is the gastric brooding frog. This was this frog in Australia that gives birth through its mouth, they sort of puke out their young.

SAUER: Wow, my new favorite too!

PERRY: Is anybody protecting this frog? Can we mount a frog hunting expedition? Seriously. It was quite the issue in Northern California some decades ago, clocking up the irrigation canal, eating things that it shouldn't eat, causing all sorts of problems. So I over these many years had kind of forgotten about it. So when I read your piece I said it's back! Is it protected somehow? Can we get the ecological vigilantes over this thing?

WAGNER: Some people have proposed going commando on these frogs. There was a guy up in the bay area who proposed just draining all the ponds in golden gate park. They need to live in water so he's just, like, let's starve them out. But they've entrenched themselves in ecosystems so well and so far and wide that that's really not an option to just kill them off. We're never going to be able to do it. We have to live with them at this point.

SAUER: So what happens if we lose more frog species? What is the overall impact?

WAGNER: Well, on just an emotional level, it would be terrible to lose this many frogs. Some of the oldest vertebrates on earth. We use them to teach kids about the life cycle, tadpoles and stuff. But the bigger picture is if all these frogs die off, we're going to see a lot more bugs because frogs won't be eating the bugs. And we might see birds and reptiles die off that eat the frogs. So can see those even though it's just this one class of animal. It could be wide reaching implications.

SAUER: Let's turn to mice now. The other critter you wrote about this week. They have been proving helpful in the fight against Alzheimer's at Salk.

WAGNER: Well, that research was interesting to me because it helped me understand what's common in Alzheimer's research on mice. So typically, researchers will get these genetically engineered mice that they know are going to get Alzheimer's. And they'll study them when they're young, give them treatment when is they're young before they have had any memory problems or shown any symptoms. But this study that just came out of Salk was an interesting experiment because Margaret Pryor and her colleagues waited until they were almost two years old which is really, really old for a lab mouse, and they waited for them to have memory problems before administering their drug candidate to them

PERRY: How do you know when a mouse has a memory problem?

WAGNER: Yeah, you can't just ask it stuff. You can put it in a -- one experiment that the Salk people did, they put it in a water maze which is like -- it has a platform in the middle, and you put these mice in water. And they don't like water so they want to get to the platform. And you train them to find the platform. After a while they know how to get right to the platform. And then once they start developing memory problems, you see that they're having difficulty getting to the platform.

SAUER: Can't remember a simple thing.

PERRY: You mentioned sequestration and the impact that might have on Salk in terms of going forward with their research. Who does pay Salk? Are they all federally funded? How about some private industry money? If they find a cure for Alzheimer's, Pfizer would like to have that and make a lot of money. Do they get investors?

WAGNER: Well, right now, they were looking for money from NIH. That's proving difficult. Sometimes there's collaborations with pharmaceutical companies. This research is a bit different though. I think they're going to start looking toward other private donors right now. This research is kind of flying in the face of what the pharmaceutical industry has thought.

SAUER: They have a lot of grant, endowment, a major contribution to Salk in a story not long ago.

DAVIS: To the discussion you were just having about the costs, when I read that it will cost $1.5million to go through the approval process, maybe this speaks to that I don't know the FDA approval process, but $1.5million, is it because of the nature of this drug? Or why is it so expensive?

WAGNER: I think that's for all investigative now drug applications. This is the process you have to go through. It's hard to get a drug approved by the FDA, for good reason, but funding is an issue.

SAUER: Which drug are you talking about?

WAGNER: Well, it's a drug candidate. It's called J147. And it's interesting because it's derived from Turcumin, which is derived from the Indian spice turmeric. It helps these mice with memory problems, but it also prevents synapses from dissecting.

PERRY: And the chance this will produce a drug I can buy to keep from getting Alzheimer's?

WAGNER: It's still early to say anything conclusive about that. But I think it's good to have labs like this, academic labs that are trying something different than what pharmaceutical companies have been trying.

SAUER: Let's talk about that. Most Alzheimer's research and drug trials look at the disease and treatments differently, right?

WAGNER: Yeah. Dave Schubert's lab at Salk, they really think about Alzheimer's as an age-related problem. And that may seem obvious to listeners. But the pharmaceutical industry and other researchers so far have really looked at it in connection with amyloid plaques which build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. And the team at Salk believe that may be involved, but it may not a good target for drugs.

SAUER: So what is the next step? Where are we at now? Are there human trials at some point?

WAGNER: The next step is trying to get funding for these human trials. They're ready for them. They're talking with the FDA about conducting the trials.

PERRY: So we would give this drug to people who already have Alzheimer's or people who are on the cusp?

WAGNER: That's right. And it'll be tricky because a lot of those people are probably already taking some of the other drugs on the market.

SAUER: Very interesting. Now, besides Alzheimer's, I imagine there's hope with other dementia, dementia associated with disease. Perhaps dementia from birth. Were they looking at a wider range?

WAGNER: Yeah, well, this study was really concerned with Alzheimer's. You can imagine that there would be relations between this and Parkinson's drug research. But this was really focused on Alzheimer's.

SAUER: Okay. And how did this come to light this week? Salk published this in a peer review?

WAGNER: Yeah. It's an Alzheimer's journal. The title escapes me. But they had published a study about this drug candidate two years ago. And this is just basically this -- in this follow-up study, they made the experiments even harder for themselves by doing it in these really old mice.

SAUER: So what was the reaction among the folks who read and study this? Is this blazing a new trail going off in a wonderful new direction?

WAGNER: You know, it's just too early to say. Stuff that works incredibly well in mice doesn't always work that well in humans. We just about a week or two ago saw a drug candidate fail to get FDA approval. So there's been so much work done on Alzheimer's, and so much of it hasn't panned out that you can't really say anything conclusive at this point.

SAUER: And it affects so many people and families in this country and around the world.

[[[NEW SEGMENT]]].

SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable on KPBS. Adrian your story is about numbers, how many immigrants are in the U.S. without authorization, how many in California, and so forth. And about the people behind the numbers who live, work, and go to school here. We hear about 11 million undocumented immigrants. Where did that figure come from?

FLORIDO: Well, it comes specifically from one man, Jeffrey Passel, and he is a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. And basically what he did is he gathered a bunch of government data, then he did some simple arithmetic. He took the total estimated number of immigrants in the U.S., subtracted using government statistics on the number of authorized immigrants allowed into the U.S. legally, subtracted that from that number, and came up with this estimate for the number of people who are here without authorization after making some statistical adjustments for undercounts that you might anticipate in the undocumented population because they're afraid to come out and respond to surveys.

SAUER: So how does the labor department get that data? How reliable is it?

FLORIDO: Well, it conducts these monthly surveys of the workforce, collecting information about their countries of origin, where they were born. So where the number of total immigrants in the country comes from. We would expect if you're undocumented, you're les likely to respond to these surveys even though they're not asking about immigration status specifically. So the statistical adjustments that Jeffrey Passel makes in his formula acts for what you would expect that undercount to be.

SAUER: It's remarkable that this 11 million number is accepted.

PERRY: What's wrong with the U.S. census? They have thousands of people knocking on my door, asking how many toilets we have in our house.

SAUER: Sounds like they weren't answering the door though if they're in this status.

PERRY: Is the census inaccurate or blind? Or just not a good instrument on the immigrant population?

FLORIDO: Well, they're not asking about legal status in the census. And that's one of the big concerns that people have always had about the census. The census's goal is to find out the total number of people here in the country, period.

SAUER: So you can't parse this out.

PERRY: And it's hard to parse out the undocumented population because it's well known that they're among the populations that are least represented in the actual census counts.

SAUER: Who are the 11 million? Where do they come from?

FLORIDO: Well, a lot of what the Pew Hispanic Center has found is probably not surprising. Of the 11 million, probably 6 million are from Mexico. The majority of them live in the six largest states, California, Illinois, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Arizona. And there are a lot of people who work in the service industry and stuff like that. But then there are also some things that maybe aren't totally expected. There's a stereotype that a lot of the undocumented populations are just single men who are in the country working. Actually a majority are men, but the majority of them are here with families. The vast majority of the undocumented population -- sorry, of the women who are undocumented in the country are in families. 40% are women, and more than 80% of those are in families with spouses and children. There are hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos. And they are also a part of the population that we don't often think about. Because the stereotype often is that we're talking about Mexicans who cross the border and are now living here in homes with six or seven men. And another interesting figure that's come out of this, we often think about the undocumented population as folks who have crossed the border illegally from Mexico. But 40% of the unauthorized population are people who came to the U.S. not even as immigrants. They came on legal visas, tourist visas, work Visas, and just overstayed their visas. Or people who were never immigrants in the first place, and once they decided to overstay became so.

PERRY: Does the Pew Institute have any decent figures on what this number would have been the last time we had a federal bill that was going to overhaul immigration? Or are we only working with a figure that's fairly decent for today's population?

FLORIDO: 20 years later, they do. When Regan signed the amnesty bill, for what turned out to be about 3 million undocumented immigrants in the country, there was a lot of disagreement because there wasn't a good formula for figuring this out. After the fact, the pew center developed this formula for estimating this and found it was pretty accurate. But there were about 3 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. And it's grown significantly since then. So after the fact we're coming up with numbers that here in 1986 was what gave Jeff Passel legitimacy and credit among the demographer crowd.

SAUER: Love that demographer cred.

PERRY: So the 11 million is folks that were born somewhere else, came here.

FLORIDO: Right.

PERRY: And if as you say, a whole bunch of them have families, we then have millions of children connected to the 11 million. So the actual number of people involved in this issue --

FLORIDO: Potentially much larger. That's one thing that we're not talking about much in this immigration debate. We're talking about 11 million all the time. But one of the things that Jeffrey Passel, even though he came up with this number, others are trying to get across that, yes, there are 11 million people who are in the country illegally who are potentially affected by the legalization bill. But there are 4.5million children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents who have in theory all of the rights and privileges and benefits of citizenship. But in actuality are hindered by the fact that their parents are in an undocumented and unauthorized status. What they're really trying to get across and look, if we add those numbers together, what we're really talking about in terms of a direct impact on people living in our country, we're talking about 16 million people.

SAUER: Tell us about California. Break it down for the state we live in.

FLORIDO: They came out with a study a few weeks ago look at the unauthorized population in the U.S. and found that of the 11 million, about 1quarter live in California. They make up 7% of the state's population. 9% of its workforce. So clearly a very huge population.

SAUER: Significant here in the state.

FLORIDO: They don't look at San Diego very specifically. Which kind of surprised me. But they did look at Los Angeles and found that in some parts of LA, 1/3 in some neighborhoods of the population is undocumented. 1-10 people in the county is undocumented. So it starts to paint this nuanced, colorful picture of who these people are and where they are on a daily basis.

SAUER: You focused on a particular woman in your story. Tell us why she might be typical.

FLORIDO: Her name was Gloria MejÌa. She illustrates this point that demographers and other researchers made to me over the phone, which was that the impact of potential legalization is much more far-reaching than just the 11 million folks. She was born in Mexico, came to the U.S. illegally. 1 of her children was born here, he loves to play soccer, he goes to school here in City Heights. And he wanted to join a soccer team that would allow him to travel with his team. But she couldn't let him because she was afraid to travel with him across state lines. In fact in the 14 years she's been here, she's never travelled farther north than I think Encinitas. Farther south than Chula Vista or farther east than El Cajon because she's trying to avoid the checkpoints that occasionally pop up. So on a personal note, this was very emotional for her. There's obviously this idea that because she's undocumented, it makes it hard for her to earn a living and these sorts of things, and harder for her to support her children financially. But also something like this which in theory shouldn't affect her son at all, his ability to play soccer with friends was affected by her status. And this is just as much as the difficulty as providing financially really saddened her, and she was crying during the interview because she almost felt like it was her fault that her child was not able to do what he wanted to do. And a lot of research has been coming out from Harvard, New York City, basically finding that she's sorts of things accumulate over the course of a child's life to really affect their emotional development, social development, educational development in the long-term.

SAUER: Now, if an immigration reform bill passes, and there's a path to citizenship, how will that affect the state's economy and the economic situation of these immigrants themselves?

FLORIDO: That's the perennial question. It's constantly debated. There seems to be no consensus on this. This USC study found if they are legalized, a lot of these immigrants in the state for example would be able to higher salaries. So the income gain would be something like $4.5billion. At the same time, other organizations which opposed immigration reform are trying to make the point that if we legalize these immigrants, they're going to take up trillions of dollars of government benefits. So it just depends on how you look at it. No doubt it'll have a significant impact on the state's economy.


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