Yale Study Finds There is Possibly Three Times More Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Than Previously Estimated

This June 25, 2014, file photo, shows a group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as they are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Professors at Yale University have roiled the immigration debate with a new study calculating there are between 16 million and 30 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — as much as three times more than most demographers figure.

The professors’ model looked at estimates of how many people came illegally, and how many people likely left, and concluded there are a lot more people who arrived than the 11 million suggested by traditional estimates. The model says the most likely figure is double that, at about 22 million.

If true, the numbers would mean U.S. officials have done a poorer job of catching illegal immigrants than imagined, and that one out of every nine people living in the U.S. is here illegally.

“Policy debates about the amount of resources to devote to this issue, and the merits of alternative policies, including deportation, amnesty, and border control, depend critically on estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., which sets the scale of the issue,” said the academics, Professors Jonathan S. Feinstein and Edward H. Kaplan and postdoctoral associate Mohammad Fazel-Zarandi, all at the Yale School of Management.

They published their findings in PLOS ONE, an open access scholarly journal, and sparked fierce pushback from the demographers who study the issue and say the professors’ numbers are impossible.

“We believe these new numbers represent at most an interesting academic exercise, but are ultimately greatly off-base and thus counterproductive to the public’s very real need to understand the true scope of illegal immigration and how best to address it,” analysts at the Migration Policy Institute, who were asked to do a peer review of the study, said in their response.

The number of people in the country illegally has always been a touchy question, and is perhaps even more freighted now under President Trump.

During the 2016 campaign Mr. Trump said the numbers could be as high as 30 million — drawing protests from fact-checkers who cited the traditional demographers.

A 2005 report by analysts at Bear Stearns concluded there were 20 million illegal immigrants, far outpacing the more accepted figure at the time of about 12 million.

And President Obama’s deportation chief, former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana, once testified to Congress that the number could be 15 million.

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SOURCE: The Washington Times, Stephen Dinan