How Many Illegal Aliens?
FAIR estimates that in 2007 the illegal alien population is above 13 million persons. Government and academic estimates indicate that as of 2006 there were 11 to 12 million illegal aliens living in the
It is difficult to have an exact figure because the illegal nature of their presence prevents any enumeration, but the U.S. Census Bureau estimated 8.7 million illegal aliens were here in 2000, and immigration officials estimate that the illegal alien population grows by as many as 500,000 every year.Estimated Distribution of the Illegal Alien Population
The nationalities of the illegal alien population in the Census Bureau estimate and INS estimate for 2000 are as follow:
The estimate by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued in February 2003 put the number of resident illegal aliens at seven million (as of Jan. 2000), 4.8 million of whom were Mexican and 2.2 million of whom resided in
The method by which the INS arrived at this estimate was based on data collected as a result of the 1986 amnesty and then relied on Census data and INS legal immigration data and airline arrival/departure records for updating the estimate. The estimate included only aliens who continued to reside illegally in the
The 2000 Census, like all previous censuses, made no attempt to determine the immigration status of foreign-born residents. Nevertheless, the results of the Census did contribute to a re-evaluation of the size of the illegal alien population. Most analysts agree that the illegal alien population now numbers more than 10-11 million persons as is shown below.
The first estimates that challenged the INS estimates appeared from labor force researchers at
The director of the Census Bureau, when asked about the much higher estimate of the illegal alien population agreed that the 2000 Census data indicated that the illegal alien estimate of the INS was too low, but did not offer a different estimate.
In the August 2001 issue of Demography, immigration researchers estimated the current total population of illegal aliens at 7.1 million, of whom 3.9 million were Mexicans. Also in August, a demographer at the Urban Institute issued an estimate that the illegal alien population was 8.5 million, with 4.5 million of them being Mexican.
The Census Bureau issued an estimate in January 2002 that the illegal alien population in 2000 was 8,705,421. That estimate was based on the discrepancy between the number of foreign-born residents and the number of legally admitted immigrants. Included in that number may be aliens residing in the
An independent estimate by analysts of the bear-Stearns investment firm said the illegal alien population “…may be as high as 20 million people.” This estimate dismisses lower official estimates as being flawed by the non-response of illegal alien to census takers. However, this conclusion misses the fact that the official estimates are instead based on a comparison between the growth in the foreign-born population and new legal immigrant arrivals. This allows the trend in the illegal alien population to be observed despite non-response in the Census.
TIME Magazine in a feature article in 2004 published an estimate of three million illegal aliens arriving each year. However, that estimate was based on a mistaken assumption that a million illegal aliens are being apprehended each year and three times as many avoid apprehension. The actual number of persons apprehended is considerably lower than one million because the same individual often may be apprehended multiple times during the year.
Amnesty proposals for granting legal residence to these illegal aliens take various forms, and the number of proposed beneficiaries vary depending on the proposal. For example, in the 1986 general amnesty, illegal aliens other than those in agricultural work were eligible only if they had been living in the
Although the number of illegal aliens in the country can only be estimated, and it is unclear what form currently proposed amnesty provisions might take, it is safe from the above analysis to conclude that any new amnesty would likely involve as many as four times as many illegal aliens as benefited from the 1986 amnesty.
"Feds Undercount Illegal Aliens," NewsMax.com, (March 16, 2001).
 Robert Justich and Betty Ng, “The Underground Labor Force is Rising to the Surface,” Bear Sterns, January 3, 2005.
Barlett, Donald and James Steele, ”Who Left the Door Open?,” TIME Magazine, September 12, 2004.
The most recent estimates by DHS only show the estimate for the 10 states with the largest illegal alien population
 Pew Hispanic Center estimates of the illegal immigration population are stated as a range, e.g., California 2.5 million to 2.75 million. The chart shows the mid-point of the estimate, e.g. California 2.625 million.
Dan Stein is the Executive Director of The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation's immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.