Count on It: Government Lowballs Illegal Aliens
Many analysts have skewered Yale University researchers who “conservatively” peg America’s illegal alien population at 16.7 million, and likely much higher.
The new study’s findings, which range up to 29.5 million, far exceed widely cited estimates, notably the 11.3 million figure compiled by the Pew Research Center in fiscal 2016.
The Yale report may be over the top, but is it reasonable to believe there are fewer illegal aliens in this country than a decade ago? That’s what the government and the mainstream media would have you think.
In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security stated that 11.55 million illegal aliens were present. Ten years later, Americans were told that the illegal population fell 2.2 percent while the U.S. population increased 8.7 percent.
In light of Republican and Democratic administrations tolerating loose borders, practicing catch-and-release policies and soft interior enforcement, a declining number of illegal aliens seems improbable. Based on available data, FAIR’s conservative estimate of the illegal alien population is 12.5 million.
Edward Kaplan, a co-author of the Yale study, noted that enumerating illegal aliens is fraught with pitfalls, and that government surveys dependent on voluntary information are inevitably prone to undercounts.
“One must locate undocumented immigrants and, once located, subjects must truthfully report they were foreign born,” Kaplan said. “Obviously [they]do not wish to be found, nor is it in their interest to reveal their place of birth.”
Kaplan said tens of millions of people fall into the category of declining to answer surveys. Admitting as much, President Barack Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana testified to Congress that the number of illegals could be 15 million.
DHS’s own documents suggest that the government undercounts illegals in this country. DHS recently reported 628,799 visa overstays in fiscal 2016. Yet its report does not cover all foreign visitors to the United States, such as those who enter through a vehicular or land point of entry. Nor does it enumerate the total estimated overstay population currently in the United States.
Despite years of work, federal agencies still have not developed a reliable tracking system to identify visa overstayers – a key subset of the illegal population.
Amid the confusion and contention over the presence of illegal aliens in the U.S., the government has a responsibility to get the data right. Numbers matter, as FAIR detailed in its landmark study on the multibillion-dollar costs that illegals impose on taxpayers.
While analysts have raised serious questions about the Yale study’s methodology, it also seems that DHS & Co. haven’t gone far enough to get to the full accounting the American public deserves.