Friday, August 18, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security yesterday said there are more than 11 million illegal aliens living and working in the United States, up from 8.5 million in 2000 — a 24 percent jump with an expected annual growth of more than 408,000.

According to a report by the department’s Office of Immigration Statistics, the vast majority of the illegals — nearly 6 million — came to the United States from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, India and China with a combined total of about 1.4 million.

The greatest percentage increase in the nation’s illegal alien population since 2000 was among people from India, a jump of 133 percent, and Brazil at 70 percent, according to the report.

The report also said most of the illegals migrated to California, which now has an illegal alien population estimated at 2.8 million, followed by Texas with 1.4 million and Florida with 850,000.

It said the states with the greatest percentage increases in illegal aliens from 2000 to 2005 were Georgia, at 114 percent; Arizona, 45 percent; Nevada, 41 percent; and North Carolina, 38 percent.

Getting an accurate count of illegal aliens in this country has been a difficult assignment, and the government has acknowledged that obtaining specific information has been impossible, saying its current estimates are based on assumptions and combinations of data.

“Estimating the size of the unauthorized population living in the United States is challenging because of data limitations,” the report said. “There are no national surveys, administrative data or other sources of information that directly provide accurate estimates of this population.

“As a consequence, the unauthorized immigrant population must be estimated by making certain assumptions and by combining data that measure events with those that measure population,” it said.

Immigration analysts, law-enforcement authorities and others have suggested conflicting totals for the actual number of illegal aliens in the United States.

But a comprehensive study of the underground economy in January 2005 by the Wall Street financial firm Bear Stearns said the number of illegals could be as high as 20 million. In a report, the firm said 3 million illegals were entering the country annually and that they were gaining a larger share of the job market, holding 12 million to 15 million jobs in the United States.

“Illegal immigrants constitute a large and growing force in the political, economic, and investment spheres in the United States,” the report said. “The size of this extra-legal segment of the population is significantly understated because the official U.S. Census does not capture the total number of illegal immigrants.

“Our research has identified significant evidence that the census estimates of undocumented immigrants may be capturing as little as half of the total undocumented population,” the report said. “This gross undercounting is a serious accounting issue, which could ultimately lead to government policy errors in the future.”

In March, the Pew Hispanic Center used U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate that the United States had 11.1 million illegal immigrants in March 2005, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in December 2003 there were 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the number at 8 million in 2003 and a 2001 Northeastern University study put the number at 11 million.

The DHS report calculated the nation’s illegal alien population at 10.5 million in January 2005, but said that assuming an annual growth rate of 408,000, the population total would have reached 11 million by January 2006. It said 3.1 million of the 10.5 million illegals had come to the United States in 2000 or later. An estimated 1 million entered in 2003 or 2004, while 2.1 million arrived during 2000 through 2002, it said.

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