Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Now at 5 Million

By William Branigin
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 7, Number 3 (Spring 1997)
Issue theme: "Restraining the American brain"

The number of illegal immigrants residing per-manently in the United States has grown to about 5 million and is rising by 275,000 a year, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said yes-terday.

William Branigin is a Washington Post staff writer. This article is reprinted by permission from the February 8, 1997 edition. In what federal officials called their most accurate calculation ever of illegal immigration, the INS estimated that this population has increased by 28 percent in the past four years alone. According to the new analysis, illegal immigrants now account for nearly 2 percent of the total U.S. population.

The new figure raised questions about the strategy of Congress and the Clinton admin-istration to throw the great bulk of U.S. resources at the south-western border with Mexico, in efforts to combat illegal immi-gration.

According to the INS study, 41 percent of the illegal resident population, or 2.1 million peo-ple, originally entered the country legally at airports and other entry points but then overstayed their temporary visas. Of the net increase in the illegal population of 275,000 a year, about 125,000 a year are visa overstayers, the INS said.

Yet, while dramatically beefing up the U.S. Border Patrol, Congress did not appro-priate funds for a relatively modest addition of 300 inves-tigators to ferret out visa over-stayers inside the country.

"Congress and the admin-istration ... remembered the policemen and forgot the detectives," complained INS special agent Robert A. McGraw in a recent article in the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Asso-ciation journal. "Neglect of INS investigations ... continues, and this means little or nothing is liable to improve."

According to advocates of lower immigrati

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