New DHS Estimates Confirm that Illegal Immigrant Population Stopped Declining Under Obama

By Steven A. Camarota and Steven A. Camarota on March 26, 2012

In February of this year, the Center for Immigration Studies issued a press release reporting that preliminary analysis of Census Bureau data showed the illegal population held roughly steady from January 1, 2009 (the month Obama took office), to January 1, 2011. The just-released Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates for 2011 confirm our prior observations.

The DHS estimates for 2011 are the first to use Census Bureau data weighted to reflect the results of the 2010 Census, and have thus been revised upward; the new estimates show 11.5 million illegals in the country for January 1, 2011, compared to a revised estimate of 11.6 million for January 1, 2010. But the conclusion has not changed; according to the Obama administration, there has been no meaningful change in the illegal immigrant population from 2010 to 2011. (All DHS estimates are for January 1.)

Further, the previous DHS estimates for 2009, if adjusted by the same amount, would show 11.6 million illegal immigrants as well. This means that the illegal population has remained virtually unchanged for the first two years of the Obama administration — January 2009 to January 2011. DHS’s old estimate for January 1, 2010, was 10.8 million, which has been revised upward about 7.4 percent to 11.6 million. DHS did not revise its 2009 estimate, but it also was 10.8 million. This almost certainly means that a revised figure for January 1, 2009, would be 11.6 million, the same as the revised estimate for January 2010 and almost identical to the 2011 estimate of 11.6 million. The stabilization in the illegal population stands in stark contrast to the period from 2007 to 2009, during which prior DHS estimates showed a decline of one million, or roughly 10 percent.

While the actual number of illegal immigrants in 2007 may also be about 7.4 percent higher than previously estimated by DHS, it would still mean the illegal population declined by about a million from 2007 to 2009, or roughly 10 percent. If the old 2007 number is correct, then the decline would be larger still. This reinforces our original conclusion that the first two years of the current administration were a period no decline in the illegal immigrant population, a fundamental change from the prior two years, which saw the illegal immigrant population decline significantly.

DHS may revise all its estimates for 2005 to 2009 at some point. But all available evidence indicates that the estimated proportional year-to-year change in the illegal population will remain the same, though the size of that population seems to have been larger than previously estimated. While unlikely, it is possible that revised figures for 2007, 2008, or even 2009 may show no decline. But if that is correct, it would just mean that the current administration has followed in the footsteps of its recent predecessors in failing to enforce the law and reduce illegal immigration.