The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is actually closer to 20 million, according to former Border Patrol agents who issued a letter this weekend disputing the count of 11 million that the government and most top private demographers use.
"The more likely figure is 18-20 million and rising daily," Zack Taylor, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, Inc., said in an open letter dated Sunday.
NAFBPO opposes the Senate bill that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants, with the organization arguing that current immigration laws aren't broken and should be enforced.
They also argue that the lesson from the 1986 amnesty is that more people end up getting benefits than the government initially projects.
"To even contemplate another amnesty without verification of this basic information is malfeasance in governance and fraud on its face," Mr. Taylor said.
Demographers say the number of illegal immigrants peaked at 12.4 million in 2007 before beginning to drop, and has now leveled off at slightly more than 11 million. The most recent Homeland Security Department estimate dates back to January 2011 and put the population at 11.5 million.
But some other studies have challenged those estimates, including a 2005 Bear Stearns report that estimated the number could be as high as 20 million.
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