800,000 + Illegals Entering Annually in Late '90s

By CIS on February 1, 2003

WASHINGTON (February 4, 2003) -- On January 31 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) released its latest estimates of the illegal alien population in the United States. While several media outlets have reported the overall findings that seven million illegal aliens lived in the United States in 2000, other information buried in the report indicates that the problem is far larger and more serious than even this huge number implies. The Center for Immigration Studies has conducted a detailed examination of the INS report.

The INS report can be found at: http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics/Ill_Report_1211.pdf

Among the findings:

  • Media accounts have focused on the total of seven million, but the INS report also shows that there were at least 78,000 illegal aliens from countries who are of special concern in the war on terrorism. Visitors from these countries are now required to register with the INS.

  • According to the report, during the 1990s, 700,000 illegal aliens on average entered each year. And that number increased to 817,000 by 1998 and to nearly one million in 1999. The total number of illegals living in the country does not grow by this amount because each year some illegals already in the country are given legal status, while others return home on their own or get deported. As a result, the illegal population grew on average by 350,000 for much of the 1990s and by the end of the decade it was growing by 500,000 year. (See Chart 2, p. 2 in report)

  • The report states that 1.5 million illegal aliens got legal status by one means or another during the 1990s. By rewarding illegal aliens with legal status, current policy encourages more people to come illegally in the hopes that they too will one day get legal status. The 1.5 million does not include the 2.7 million illegals given legal status as part of the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

  • The new INS report clearly demonstrates that amnesties do not solve the problem of illegal immigration. Although 2.7 million of the estimated five million illegal aliens in the country in 1986 were legalized under IRCA, the new INS report shows that they had been entirely replaced by new illegal aliens and the number again stood at five million by 1994. (See Table C, p. 10)

  • The 1.5 million green cards given out to illegals in the 1990s dwarf immigration enforcement efforts. According to the report, only 412,000 illegals were removed by the INS during the decade. (See Table C, p. 10)

"These new estimates are extremely troubling and confirm what many Americans already know -- the scale of illegal immigration is truly enormous. The disregard for the rule of law, the impact on public coffers, and the effect on Americans in low-wage jobs are all matters of grave concern," said Steven Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies. "Perhaps even more troubling are the implications for national security. If a Mexican day laborer can sneak across the border, so can an al Qaeda terrorist. While the vast majority of illegals are not terrorists, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are able to settle in the United States illegally each year shows that terrorists who wish to do so face few obstacles. We can't protect ourselves from terrorism without dealing with illegal immigration."