- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The illegal alien population in the United States is between 11.5 million and 12 million, with two-thirds having arrived in the past decade and 40 percent since 2000, a report says.

The study by the Pew Hispanic Center also found that “unauthorized migrants” comprise 24 percent of the labor force in farming, 17 percent in cleaning, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation.

The report’s author, Jeffrey S. Passel, said the reality of the illegal alien population is different from the stereotype of a single, male worker.

“The picture of this population is that of young working families, in contrast to the usual stereotype of the adult man who’s here by himself,” Mr. Passel said.

Single men account for less than a quarter of the illegals population. Nearly 2 million illegals are younger than 18, and many families are mixed, with illegal alien parents living with children who are U.S. citizens. An estimated 3 million children live in mixed households.

That fact complicates the debate on guest-worker programs because it means workers have put down roots and are unlikely to want to leave at the end of their work period.

Mr. Passel said his findings also show the slowdown in illegal immigration from 2002 to 2003 seems to have reversed.

“The picture we have of this population is that, in spite of efforts to control unauthorized migration, the numbers have continued to grow, the rate of growth appears to be continuing at about the same level, we appear to be adding about half a million a year,” Mr. Passel said.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the findings are another indicator that the system is broken.

“It is inexcusable that almost 40 percent of illegal immigration has occurred since 9/11,” he said. “Our national security demands that we know who is coming to the U.S. and who is living here right now.”

He said the data should support calls for a program to bring illegal aliens into the legal work force. His proposal would require illegal aliens to register and give them five years to depart the country. Other plans would put aliens on a path to citizenship, or would allow them to stay indefinitely but without access to citizenship.

The report said that between 2000 and 2005, 1.5 million Mexicans entered the United States illegally. Mexicans account for 56 percent of the illegal alien population, and other Latin American countries account for 22 percent.

The Pew report is based on the March 2005 “Current Population Survey,” which showed an illegals population of about 11.1 million. Researchers then used other data to reach the estimate of up to 12 million.

Mr. Passel defined “unauthorized migrants” as those who are not citizens or permanent legal residents and who do not have legal temporary status. The vast majority of those either sneaked into the country or arrived on legal temporary visas and overstayed their time.

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