A slew of stories today about a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center estimating that as of March 2009, the illegal population had dropped to 11.1 million. Pew, though institutionally inclined toward amnesty and mass immigration, does honest work, and this is no exception. But many of the press reports are treating this as momentous, previously unknown news when, in fact, it’s already been reported — twice.
In January of this year, DHS’s Office of Immigration Statistics estimated that the illegal population as of January 2009 was 10.8 million (which, given the margin of error in such estimates, is basically the same as the Pew number). And fully six months before that report, my colleague Steven Camarota estimated that the illegal population as of February 2009 was — 10.8 million.
Pew did more slicing and dicing of the numbers (by state and country) than DHS, which in turn did more than CIS, but the bottom line for policymakers is the same: the illegal alien population can indeed be shrunk without amnesty. The decline started before the recession, in response to the stirrings of enforcement activity at the tail-end of the Bush administration, and then was accelerated by the economic downturn. Steve estimated that from August 2007 to February 2009 the illegal population declined from 12.5 million to 10.8 million — that’s more than 1.5 million illegal aliens we didn’t legalize. Let’s keep trying and see how much more we can reduce the total before we surrender and declare an amnesty. Unfortunately, the current crowd in the White House is undoing enforcement, not ramping it up, so if and when the economy ever turns around, we can expect a new surge in the illegal population.