- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. soared by more than 1 million last year, reaching 11.4 million as of this January, according to new research released Tuesday that puts new contours on the border chaos under President Biden.

The surge is the largest in two decades and is among the largest single-year increases in U.S. history, said Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, the lead researcher who wrote the paper.

He used Census Bureau numbers to calculate the trajectory of the unauthorized population, figuring there were about 11.5 million in January 2019, that figure plummeted to 10.2 million by the start of 2021, then soared to 11.4 million at the start of this year.

Preliminary estimates for February put the figure at 11.5 million, which would mean the illegal immigrant population has grown by more than 1.2 million since Mr. Biden took office.

“It reflects the economy, and I think the other big thing is it reflects the Biden administration’s policies — his campaign promises to curtail enforcement, and then the curtailment,” Mr. Camarota said.

Mr. Camarota used the same methods the Homeland Security Department uses for calculating the unauthorized population, though he used a more frequently updated data set, the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which offers monthly data.

The numbers give another perspective to the surge of illegal immigrants across the border, signaling that hundreds of thousands of people were caught and released or evaded detection altogether, finding space in America’s communities where many will attempt to put down roots.

“The impact on American workers, the impact on hospitals, the impact on schools, the impact on American taxpayers have all increased a lot in the last year,” Mr. Camarota said.

The rising numbers also could give ammunition to Republican-led states that have challenged lax Biden immigration policies in court.

In order to gain standing to sue, the states have argued — in many cases successfully — that they bear the burden of those lax policies by having to provide more services to people who, had the Biden administration maintained stricter enforcement at the border or in the interior, wouldn’t be here.

Mr. Camarota’s estimate for the unauthorized population is larger than other analysts, though he says there’s little doubt a massive surge took place in 2021.

Indeed, other information in the Census Bureau numbers confirms something is happening.

The total foreign-born population, legally and illegally present, has risen by 1.7 million since January 2021, to reach an all-time record of 46.7 million.

That 13-month spike is greater than the increase across the entirety of former President Donald Trump’s four years in office, Mr. Camarota said.

“It really matters who’s president,” he said.

The new numbers are all the more stark because they break what had been a fairly consistent period in the illegal immigrant population over the last decade.

In the years just before the Great Recession of 2008, the country had averaged nearly 500,000 more illegal immigrants each year, according to Homeland Security’s estimates. But the 2010s were less chaotic. As Mexico’s economy improved, illegal border crossings plummeted, reaching levels below 350,000 several times under the Obama and Trump administrations.

The total illegal immigrant population hovered between 11.4 million and 12 million over the final years of the decade, standing at 11.5 million as of January 2019.

The border saw a large surge of illegal immigrants in 2019, but Mr. Camarota said the data isn’t good enough to deliver an estimate of the illegal immigrant population as of January 2020.

But by January 2021, after nine months of the pandemic, the population had dropped to 10.2 million. It then surged to 11.4 million in January 2022, and stood at 11.5 million as of February, Mr. Camarota calculates.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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