Introduction: How Many Foreign Nationals Actually Live in the U.S. Illegally?

By Diana Hull, Ph.D.
Volume 17, Number 4 (Summer 2007)
Issue theme: "How many illegal aliens are in the U.S.?"

As an introduction to this issue of The Social Contract, this article points out that official U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the number of foreign nationals - that is, illegal aliens - living in the U.S. is undoubtedly low.  Our confidence in government data is misplaced.  This introduction presents articles in the Summer, 2007 issue that, using various methodologies, contrast and contradict formal government estimates.

The Los Angeles Times, which I read in the morning, whenever it mentions illegal aliens, quotes the 8–12 million figure, as it did during all of 2006 and still is in the summer of 2007. This figure was generated by the U.S. Census Bureau and, despite contrary evidence from other recent, nongovernment sources, this low estimate pops back up persistently, carrying the message that it’s as futile to try to get higher estimates acknowledged as it is to make a dent in a rubber fence.

So I encourage you to read the articles in this special issue of The Social Contract and ask yourself; to what extent is our confidence in government data misplaced when they tell us the number of foreign nationals living in this country illegally is 8–12 million.

In California, the Department of Finance periodically gives its best estimate of the size of our state’s population. The first hint that there was something amiss with official government counts was when population estimates made by this state agency were substantially different from U.S. Census reports for each of the years studied by CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization).

This discrepancy had been pointed out to us repeatedly by Dick Schneider, a member of the CAPS Board of Directors who tracks this issue on a regular basis. As of July 1, 2006, the California Department of Finance (DOF) reported a million more people in the state than did the Census Bureau. Until 2004, the DOF claimed that a combination of foreign immigration and migration from other states was half of the reason for the state’s growth, and the other half of the growth of 500,000 to 600,000 more people a year came from “natural increase.”

But the CAPS’ study did of California growth 1990–2002 showed that virtually 100 percent of the state’s growth in this period came about half from direct immigration and half from births to immigrants. And rather than experiencing in-migration from other states, California residents were moving out of the state at the rate of about 200,000 people a year.

In addition, the “births to immigrants” component of growth was subsumed under the category “natural increase,” making the immigrant-related source of that growth disappear. This is the background that first persuaded CAPS to question official census and DOF figures, both assumed to be the “gold standard” of population measurement.

In this special issue of The Social Contract, four well-qualified experts explore the question, how many illegal immigrants actually reside in the United States? They cite their own findings that conflict with the official figures, which they conclude, are seriously wrong. And there is good reason to believe that instead of 8–12 million illegal aliens living in the United States, there may actually be 20 to 30 million or more.

Getting those numbers right was crucial, but ignored, during the recent Senate debate, and all official figures must be reexamined and questioned in the future wherever and whenever immigration decisions are being made. There is no matter more critical for our population future than ascertaining the actual scale of this problem.

Now that the legalization/amnesty proposal is stalled for a while, there is little to indicate that existing law will be vigorously enforced, if at all. So we face a continuation of “business as usual,” meaning wide-open borders, some token employer sanctions, and virtually no interior enforcement. But even a continuation of the status quo is more desirable than the 24-hour turn- around time for legalization in the recent Senate bill. No additional deterrent is yet in place, but at least there is no additional incentive for breaking into the country.

Underestimating the size of the illegal population has been a problem in the past. In 1986, it was thought that about 1.2 million illegals would apply for the amnesty being offered at that time. Yet more than twice that number, 2.7 million, were legalized. Then, just ten years after that amnesty, in 1996, Doris Meissner, then head of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, admitted that the number of illegal aliens living in the United States had increased to 10 million. That result confirms that legalization of illegals is not a solution, but rather an illegal alien population “force multiplier.”

So the first question must be, is legalization of illegal immigrants a solution to their presence? Or does it add substantially to the overpopulation problem, in addition to increasing the prevalence of illegal entry and illegal residence in the future, the problems legalization/amnesty is allegedly trying to solve?

Does any future legalization/amnesty question whether such contemplated action has any positive outcomes at all for the citizens of this country, or will it only further accelerate a nationalgrowth path, already of staggering proportions, from which the United States is unlikely to ever recover?

These are especially critical years as our nation embarks, populationwise, on a road of no return, looking at a billion people by the end of the century. California alone will have 60 million people by 2050, up from 38 million in 2007, according to the state DOF’s most recent report. Yet we still live at a time when some version of the recently shelved Senate legislation, mischaracterized as “comprehensive reform,” might finally accomplish the goals of what has been a three-decades-long collaboration between globalists and their corporate-financed ethnic lobbies.

Also expect such proposed legislation in the future to contain, as it has in the past, expansion of H-1 B visa admissions. The enabling legislation for a program like this was defeated first time around in 2006 because its passage would have added at least 60 million more people to the U.S. population in a decade, according to researcher Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. But the high tech branch of the cheap labor lobby is always pushing this agenda, raising the numbers at every opportunity, as an add-on to any legalization/amnesty bill. So every American needs to be alerted to this additional concern.

The certainty that amnesty/legalization brings a huge burden of unacceptable outcomes is the reason CAPS (Californians for Population Stabilization) and The Social Contract are publishing this special issue, containing four position papers by experts who have not had their say until now on the real numbers involved in any new legalization/amnesty proposals. We recommend you consider the conclusions of these experts and what they mean for you, your descendants, and your country.

The contributors to this study

Although I am no fan of diversity for its own sake and question its automatic twinship with excellence, the professional backgrounds, methods, vantage points and presentation formats used by the four contributors couldn’t be more different.

All estimate the number of illegal aliens living in the United States today by using their own research and knowledge of this phenomenon and compare it with the validity and reliability of widely accepted established sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the California Department of Finance. But contributors to this issue of The Social Contract go the next step and also discuss estimates produced by other and newer players on the scene, such as the economists at Bear Stearns, who look at objective and verifiable indicators of illegal alien presence that do not rely, like the U.S. Census, on the standard questionnaire method of self-reporting.

Although each of the contributors approaches the task independently, their conclusions are the same: that official government counts of foreign nationals living in this country illegally are double or more than government experts claim.

If the conclusions of our contributors are correct, more than twice the expected number of illegal aliens would apply for any “legalization/ amnesty” programs, which also escalates dramatically the number of family members who would be admitted down the line.

So Americans must be told now how any such legislation will further grow the nation way beyond the numbers they have been given, how such legislation will further enlarge overpopulation’s impact on land and resource use, put further stress on all our institutions and infrastructure, and further erode the primacy of English as our national language, to mention but a few of the adverse effects.

Therefore, in our opinion, the benefits of these four independent assessments, arrived at without collaboration, outweigh any inconsistency of format, for which we nevertheless apologize because it requires the reader to adjust to the various styles and approaches used.

For example, the conclusions of contributor James Walsh, Associate General Counsel of the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), come from his years of “close-up” observation and experience. When disciplined and consistent, this method of systematic case counting and observation through time has always had a place in science.

Computer specialist and Colorado immigration activist Fred Elbel has a data-oriented approach, documenting his analysis and conclusions with copious citations and background information.

Whereas few professional economists will concede that absolutely zero population growth might be a good thing for the country, Professor Philip Romero, who served as Economic Advisor to former California Governor Pete Wilson, concedes that a point one percent annual growth rate might be just as beneficial to the nation’s economyas a one percent annual growth rate. In Prof. Romero’s own words, “Personally, the contributing economist to this study would prefer for California to continue to grow, albeit very slowly (e.g. 0.1 to 0.3 percent per year), coming entirely from educated immigrants prepared for the postindustrial economy.” That is the difference between a 70-year population doubling time and a 700-year population doubling time.

Unlike many demographers, contributor and CAPS’ consultant Nancy Bolton has no special stake in defending the accuracy of U.S. Census Bureau figures and is, in fact, cognizant of the limitations of the questionnaire method and the self reporting that government agencies rely upon. That is especially true when the information is voluntarily given by people suspicious that truthfulness could hurt them personally.

Californians for Population Stabilization via The Social Contract is publishing this material in an effort to provide solid alternative views rarely aired by major media outlets, obdurate about immigration information at odds with their own pro-growth, pro-mass immigration opinions.

One example of media resistance is the absence of a much-warranted continuing discussion of the well-researched Bear Stearns report, by Robert Justich and Betty Ng, which exposed the census undercount of illegal aliens, based in part on the depth and breadth of the underground economy and other quantifiable data not dependent on self reports. This introduction would not be complete without acknowledging their contribution to any well-informed discussion of this topic. ■


About the author

Diana Hull, Ph.D., President of Californians for Population Stabilization, is a writer and researcher on immigration and population issues. She is a Behavioral Scientist trained in Demography and a retired Clinical Associate Professor from the Baylor College of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry in Houston, Texas. Dr. Hull is a former member of the Sierra Club's Population Committee and the Southern California Demographic Forum. Her research on the health effects of changed environments on individuals and groups has been published in Social Science and Medicine, Psychological Review, International Journal of Psychosomatic Research and many other journals. She was a founding member of both the Media Division and the Health Division of the American Psychological Association and is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara Foundation Board of Trustees (emeritus). A graduate of CUNY, she earned a master's degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas School of Public Health.