L.A. Now Live: Tom Wong wants to be the Nate Silver of immigration

Professor Tom Wong in his office at UC San Diego.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

As the immigration battle shifts to the House, word has spread among activists that Tom Wong might be the Nate Silver of immigration reform — the go-to data geek with the crystal ball.

But Wong doesn’t just want to predict the future. He also wants to change it, by giving immigrant rights advocates the statistical ammunition they need to influence lawmakers.

Join us at 9 a.m. when we talk with Times reporter Cindy Chang about Wong’s plans for influencing the immigration debate in this country.

The UC San Diego assistant professor recently led a conference call with about 30 advocacy groups, including Mark Zuckerberg’s

Still more pro-reform organizations joined a second phone call to talk about his projections. His models show a range of measures, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, flaming out in the House.


“Ultimately, if these groups are effective, then hopefully some of these ‘nos’ become ‘yesses,’” said Wong, 31. “Then, my final tally might be off, but in a way that might make me happy.”

With his crewcut and compact, athletic build, Wong projects a cheerful efficiency, parrying criticisms with a dose of self-deprecation. Outwardly, nothing sets him apart from other ambitious young academics.

But his past drives nearly everything he does.

Once, he was one of the 11 million.