IMMIGRATION STUDIES (CIS)
ILLEGAL-IMMIGRANT POPULATION DROPPING:
NEW REPORT FINDS SIGNIFICANT DECLINE SINCE LAST SUMMER
CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES
DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH,
CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES
Federal News Service
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Krikorian; I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank here in town that examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. The report we’re releasing today is something that reporters have talked a lot about. People get a lot of sense that – they think some illegal immigrants are going home because of enforcement, but this is really the first solid evidence, the first actual data that demonstrates that something, in fact, is happening. It’s prepared by our director of research, Steven Camarota, and our demographer, Karen Jensenius; Steve will come up and give an overview of the report, which is online at our site – it should be by now – at cis.org. And then, we’ll have a comment by Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama. And we hope at least a couple of House members who are now on the floor voting. But we’ll see which of them are able to come and we’ll interrupt things if they do end up getting here. But first, Steve will speak and then the senator will give some reactions, and then we’ll play it by ear after that. Steve?
STEVEN CAMAROTA: This does create quite an echo. Can you hear me okay? Here, I’ll try moving it a little far away, reduce that a little bit.
Okay, as Mark said, my name is Steve Camarota. I am director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. I am the lead author of the report we are releasing today. Karen Jensenius is my coauthor of the report. Now, there is widespread agreement that until recently, immigration laws have been largely unenforced within the United States. However, there’s a longstanding debate over whether enforcing immigration laws would significantly reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country. Some have argued that because illegal aliens are so firmly attached to their lives here, that actually enforcing the law would not significantly reduce the numbers. It is also argued that the desire to emigrate to the United States is so strong, enforcement could not deter illegal immigrants from coming.
The study we are releasing today tries to explore that question, see what’s been happening based on the latest data, and sort of test that hypothesis. The study examines the number of less-educated young Hispanic immigrants in the country. Based on research by the Department of Homeland Security, the former INS, Census Bureau, the Pew Hispanic Center, as well as my own research, we estimate that about 80 percent of these young, foreign-born Hispanics who are less-educated are illegal aliens. These young, less-educated, foreign-born Hispanics can be seen as the likely illegal immigrant population. To examine this population, we use monthly data, collected by the U.S. Census Bureau; we take a three-month moving average in what is called the current population service. The findings show clear evidence that the legal immigrant population has declined significantly in recent months.
Now, the figures over there to my farther right show the number of adult immigrants, in millions, living in the United States each month between January 2005 and May of this year. The bottom line shows the likely illegal immigrant population; that is, less-educated Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 40 years of age. The top line shows all other adult immigrants. We do not include children in this analysis because we feel very strongly that children will basically follow the migration decisions of their parents, that is, foreign-born children anyway.
As you can see, after hitting a peak last summer – that’s where it says amnesty fails – the number shows a significant decline in the illegal immigrant population through May of this year, but only the illegal population seems to be declining. The legal immigrant population is unaffected, or seemingly unaffecting, continuing to increase. Now, the decline between August 2007 and May of this year, in the likely illegal population, is about 800,000, roughly speaking, or 11 percent.
Now, one interesting finding in that figure to my far left is that the illegal immigrant population seems to have ticked up, grown somewhat if you will, during the debate over legalization or amnesty last year. And the figures show that after the amnesty failed, the numbers begin to fall pretty quickly. So you might refer to that as kind of the amnesty hump. People heard about the legalization, they thought it might pass; people who may have been thinking about going home said let me take a wait-and-see approach, and maybe more people come in. But it probably, we think, had a much bigger effect on people already here.
Now, of course, not all illegal immigrants are included in Census Bureau data. Most research suggests that about 90 percent of illegal aliens do respond to surveys like the current population survey or the American community and so forth. This is how the government estimates the illegal population as well, from these data sources. But if we adjust for those not counted in the far figure, it produces the results in the nearer figure, over here. The numbers for between January of 2000 and for January 2006 are from the Department of Homeland Security. We then adjust those numbers, assuming the ratio remain the same between the less-educated Hispanic population and the illegal population, and that produces the results. So it indicates that by August of 2007, sort of the peak, the illegal population seems to have grown to about 12.5 million and then, that number began to decline significantly and now stands at more like 11.2 million, about a 1.3 million decline. So the things to take away from that is that there was a significant decline in the illegal alien population, based on our best estimates; however, the illegal alien population remains very large.
Now, it’s important to understand that the figures show only our total estimate for the number of illegal immigrants in the country. The observed decline must be due to some combination of illegal immigrants leaving versus the number coming. Now, in the report, we discussed the issue of in-migration versus out-migration in much greater detail, but overall we find that most of the falloff seems to have been caused by a significant increase in the number of people here going home. If you will, out-migration seems to explain these results; in-migration also fell, but the more dramatic change seems to have been in out-migration. Remember, there’s always a lot of churn, people coming, people going, a small number – very small number – who die in any human population. But mainly, it’s the numbers coming and going. There are no births, of course, that are illegal in the United States. Children born in the United States are awarded U.S. citizenship and so are not illegal aliens.
Now, what caused this decline? Well, this really is the $64 question. Well, the two main factors that might explain this decline are increased immigration enforcement and the economy. In the report, we argue that enforcement seems to have played a significant role in causing this decline. Now, one indication that stepped-up enforcement is responsible for what we see over here on my left is that only the illegal immigrant population seems to be affected, as I pointed out. Legal immigrants, who are still subject to the same economic forces, seems to continue to grow.
Another indication enforcement is causing decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in the unemployment of illegal aliens, and that’s really important. If it was the case that the economy was driving people out of the country, we would expect unemployment to rise and then people to leave. And in fact, in the report, we look at historical data. You can see the long-term trend, if you have the report, in figure four. In general, that shows that the illegal population declines after a jump in unemployment. That’s not what’s happened; the current trend is a complete break with anything in the past, and that is strong evidence that increased enforcement is playing a role.
The importance of enforcement is also suggested by the fact that the current decline is already larger than the decline during the last recession. And officially, the country has not even entered a recession. As I said, we also, in the report, go back eight years, to January 2000. Again, you can see that in figure four. And again, the current pattern is different. We see this decline before a rise in unemployment, and that’s why we think – one of the reasons we think that enforcement has played a really important role.
That enforcement has increased cannot be disputed. The Department of Homeland Security has been doing a great deal more to enforce the law. For example, the share of the U.S. border that has a fence has increased significantly in the last 18 months. The number of border patrol agencies doubled in recent years. The number of detention beds used to hold illegal – or aliens in general has more than doubled. The number of local law enforcement personnel trained in immigration enforcement has increased dramatically in just the last year. The number of aliens removed, which includes deportations, has increased significantly as well.
The E-Verify program, which allows employers to screen workers to see if they’re authorized to work in the country, now covers about one out of every 10 new hires, new people hired, in this country. In fact, it’s a little higher than one in 10. Work site enforcement has seen some of the largest increases, with the number of criminal and administrative arrests increasing more than five-fold since 2004.
Now, in many ways, these efforts are still quite modest and represent large relative increases over what were very modest levels of enforcement in the past. Nevertheless, they do constitute a more comprehensive and a robust approach to enforcement, both at the border and perhaps most importantly, within the United States.
Now, let me conclude by just saying that the overall findings of this report are, again, straightforward. The illegal immigrant population is declining and enforcement seems to have played a significant role in that process. Now, it is sometimes argued that illegal aliens are so permanently attached to their lives in the United States that no amount of enforcement would ever make a large share of them return to their home countries. Recent trends seem to contradict this view. The evidence presented here indicates it has been possible to cut the illegal alien population by increasing significantly the number of illegals leaving the country. In fact, if the current trend were sustained and the illegal immigrant population was reduced by 11 percent for, say, five years it could cut the total illegal immigrant population – if we did that year in and year out, 11 percent a year, it would cut the total illegal immigrant population in half within about five years.
Now, of course, this study says nothing about whether the drop in illegal immigration is desirable. Our own view, at the Center for Immigration Studies, is that more muscular enforcement of immigration laws is a vital part of any meaningful reform of our immigration system. However, some may feel that enforcement is not the right approach for dealing with illegal immigration. But whatever one’s views on illegal immigration, the findings of this report show strong evidence that the illegal population has fallen significantly since last summer.
Now, there is absolutely no way to know whether current trends will continue. In recent weeks, both presidential candidates have repeatedly indicated their deep commitment to legalizing those in the country illegally. Now, pronouncements of this kind have consequences. When Congress was considering the legalization for illegal immigrants last summer, there is that evidence that illegal immigration actually grew. When the legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to decline rapidly.
It may be that the promises made by candidates in recent weeks will again encourage more illegal immigrants to enter, or encourage those already in the country who might otherwise be thinking about leaving, to stay in the hopes of being awarded legal status by some future president. In some ways, these recent pronouncements may encourage illegal immigrants to take, if you will, a wait-and-see approach. So I cannot answer the fundamental question that lots of people are asking me, is this going to continue. I just don’t think we know for sure what’s going to happen in the future. What I can say is the evidence is powerful and consistent, that enforcement is having the desired effect; it’s reducing illegal immigration. Thank you.
Mr. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Steve. Now, Senator Sessions is going to offer some thoughts. He’s one of the leaders in the Senate on this issue and frankly, is probably one of the important reasons that black line started going in the other direction last summer. So Senator, if you had a few words.
SENATOR JIM SESSIONS (R-AL) : Thank you very much. There is one big concept that I came to understand as we went forward with the debate, and that is a lot of people just didn’t believe there was anything that could be done, that anything could work, and we could not make a difference and we might as well give up. And every time somebody proposed a solution, there would be some horror story or some objection to the solution. I used to cite frequently in many of my colleagues that would support anything that would not work, but they would always end up opposing whatever would work. Let me just say that.
So this idea, I have come to believe in the course of debate, that we really have it within our grasp to create a lawful system of immigration in America. A lawful system of immigration is just fundamental to who we are as a people. It’s unthinkable that we would accept a system of immigration which is not respected, does not work, and in fact, makes a mockery of law. It’s just unthinkable that we would have that. So that was my fundamental approach to it and I think the numbers that are shown here indicate that people, most of the people, many of the people that have come through our country illegally are highly mobile. And they can come and stay for awhile; they can go back home. It’s just not as big a deal as some would pick out, the hardest, most difficult cases in the example of why we shouldn’t even attempt to create a lawful system or to have any kind of a legal system.
I would just want to point out that, first, that an 11 percent decline in the population in the United States that’s illegal is a very significant number, probably more significant than the number of – that Homeland Security has talked about, and that is in 2007, the arrests at the border fell 20 percent. We’ve increased our border patrol agents; we’ve increased fencing and barriers, and we’ve increased our capacity to detain people. We’re doing a lot better job; the detentions are down, arrests are down 20 percent. As some of you probably know, it was over a million, so it’s now over 800,000 that are being arrested, at least in 2007, to give you a sense of the numbers that we’re dealing with.
So I think this study is very valuable and I think it should give encouragement to those who believe that we can make a difference. It should affect policy-makers who have doubts that anything we do can make any difference. I would also add a couple of other things that have occurred. The Mexican government released a survey in December that shows the deterrent effects of enforcement. According to the survey, Mexican nationals are now thinking twice about U.S. jobs. There has been a, quote, “30 percent drop since 2005 in the number of Mexicans looking for a job in another country or preparing to cross the border,” close quotes. That’s a big number, too, and it’s confirmatory to both Homeland Security, to the Mexican government, and now the numbers data shown here. So I think that’s important.
What happened? How did we get to a situation in which over a million people were being apprehended a year entering our country illegally? I’ll tell you what happened. Most people in other countries are not used to the rigor with which Americans try to see their laws enforced. They don’t worry about the law that’s on the book; they ask what’s being enforced. And they were not enforcing the laws. The president of the United States went so far to say basically he didn’t care who came here, as long as there was a willing worker and a willing employer. I mean that, to me, was a thunderous statement to the entire world that this country was not in a lawful mode of immigration. So we went through this national debate.
The Senate was shut down by phone calls, the Senate switchboard, and I believe the American people made a decision that if Congress said they got it – I think we’ll see soon whether or not Congress has really, truly gotten it, or whether the same forces, the same special interests, the same power that drove this unworkable comprehensive bill will be successful in the future – but I do think the Department of Homeland Security is stepping up its effectiveness in its prosecutions and enforcement, not as rapidly as they should. And the matter will be decided in the next several years, depending on whether the president, whoever he may be, actually is committed to enforcing the law. And I think Americans need to ask the president, with more specificity, those candidates, on what they really mean when they say they want to have lawfulness on the border.
The House has done a great job on this; they’ve been crystal-clear in their position. I’m sorry our colleagues haven’t gotten here. I won’t utilize senatorial filibuster and talk anymore. I’ll just say you got a great team, with Lamar Smith and Heath Shuler and Tom Feeney. And I don’t know who will probably be sharing with you some of their perspective. That’s one issue, though, that’s on the table right now. There are four bills that basically – that expire at the end of this fiscal year, September 30th; four laws that allow people to come into the country in one category or another, not large numbers, but discreet groups that are qualified, and the E-Verify system.
E-Verify is a system by which an employer can check with the Social Security of people, give them a Social Security number, and it comes back, the name of the person that has that number or if it’s a valid number. And they can check, compare it, with the applicant. And now, we’re about 12 percent, would you say, of employers, when they hire somebody are using that. And it gives them a safe harbor; it protects them if they hire somebody who’s not illegal, that the number came back legal. It gives them some protection and also indicates a commitment to trying to be faithful and to follow the law. And in some states, like Arizona, the states require the businesses to check.
But it’s a growing thing and it’s working. It expires, and I just would say that’s going to be a defining moment. If the Senate or the House fails to extend that bill, then all the protestations that we may hear that they intend to do something about lawfulness would be shown to be not true because E-Verify is a critical component of our future system, that we’re guaranteed lawfulness. And I just think we have an opportunity here and it’s very significant. The American people need to be focused on it, they need to watch their representatives and senators to make sure that the right decisions are made, and that we continue to progress that is being made. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: The senator agreed for a couple of minutes to take questions, if anybody has any questions. We have to have provoked somebody.
SEN. SESSIONS: I would just say this: You know, any kind of a debate or a discussion like this, most of us don’t have time to go out and crunch the numbers and census data and go through all of this. I just want to thank CIS for providing invaluable research. You can be sure that the other side have plenty of money and plenty of numbers; a lot of them aren’t very accurate. Yes, sir.
Q: What is the status of E-Verify right now? It was supposed to come up this morning in a number of venues. And Mr. Menendez, on your side, was talking about you wanted to get something in return for it. What has happened in the Senate?
SEN. SESSIONS: The House has moved the bill, is that right?
(Off-mike cross talk.)
SEN. SESSIONS: This afternoon, and – but this package of five bills have been cleared out on the Republican side, I think, and my understanding is there was one objection, understanding it was Senator Menendez. I’m not real sure what his objection is at this point. But it’s kind of because the Senate schedule is such that this thing could get balled up and not pass, and the entire E-Verify system would expire. And I think that would be a monumental error.
Q: (Inaudible, off-mike.)
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I’ll just say this. As a former federal prosecutor for 15 years, to bring a case against a business, you have to show that the business, first, knew that the individual was not here illegally and they hired them anyway. If they checked on E-Verify and the person is not a legitimate person and they hired them anyway, that’s very strong proof, if you’ve brought a charge against them, that they willfully violated the law. And so – and also, many businesses are using it just for public relations, and they made commitments that they’ll use the E-Verify system, but it’s not a guarantee. If you’ve got a Social Security number that matches your name and you put it in the system, it won’t come back and you still might be illegally in the country.
Q: (Inaudible, off-mike.)
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, the punitive measures would be – punitive measures, I guess, would be the fact that a company would be prosecutable if they had reason to believe this person were not here, had the Social Security checked, didn’t work out through E-Verify; it was bogus and they persisted in hiring, I think they could go to jail.
Briefly now, Congressman Feeney?
Q: Are you aware of what the – there are five dozen provisions to track change over time, meaning that someone comes here as a temporary worker is legal, then they lose the status with the system – (inaudible) – human error catch up with that person and identify them as not being authorized for the United States.
SEN. SESSIONS: I do not know. It’s a good question.
Q: I’m pretty sure it’s not.
SEN. SESSIONS: Tom, it was great to see you.
MS. : (Off mike) – on the I-9 you have to put the expiration date of temporary visas, and then you have to go back in and reauthorize.
SEN. SESSIONS: So it should expire and show up as having expired.
Thank you so much. I appreciate the CIS’ work in compiling these numbers. You’re not wearing granny glasses, I don’t know, reading all the census reports and everything it takes to do this, but it’s important that we have the data and I think this confirms some other facts that I’ve been hearing. Congratulations to you for your good work.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Senator.
And now, we have some comments from Congressman Tom Feeney. He’s one of the leaders in the House on this issue, has helped get the discharge petition for the SAVE Act going, so he wants to give us some thoughts on this as well. Congressman?
REP. TOM FEENEY (R-FL) : Well, thank you. Hey, thank you very much. I just want to leave you with one message and then I’ll make a few points. It’s this: Illegal immigrants aren’t stupid. They react to the same incentives as anybody with a typical human nature. If you are busy trying to pass legislation that will give them amnesty, they will come and take advantage and stay as long as they think that they will be relieved of the obligation to follow the law. If you do not secure the border, they will take advantage of that. If you do not have a system that says to your employers they don’t need to worry about the law and that they hire illegals, illegal immigrants are not stupid. They will take advantage of our refusal to enforce our own rule of law and to protect American sovereignty.
What the CIS study has done, and I really congratulate you, is basically to tie the behavior and the flow across borders, and we see that a population is deporting itself because we are willing, for the first time, to say America is not ready for amnesty; it’s the wrong thing to do. We learned our lesson in Simpson-Mazzoli. So when Americans said loud and clear – despite the leadership and the Senate and some in the House, and even in the White House, when we said loud and clear breaking our law is not the way to come to America to share in the American dream. There is a better way to do it and that is to follow the law. And we said to people we are not going to give you benefits like out-of-state tuition, that an American out-of-state student would not be eligible for, they started to get the message. And when we said we’re going to require employers to make sure that if you applied for a job, you are legally eligible to work in the United States, when we started enforcing that, illegal immigrants got the message.
Now, one of the things the study does not show is whether or not it is just the rational employment-seeking illegals that are leaving, or whether it’s some of the most horrendous criminals and abusers of our social welfare system, and the people that are adding huge tax burdens. You know, we have the wrong Ramos in jail today. A border security agent, along with his colleague, Compion (sp), has been imprisoned, essentially for trying to enforce the border in a horrendously dangerous situation in doing his job. We have asked repeatedly that the administration allow Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compion, one of whom was badly beaten by illegal – by immigrants when he was in jail.
There was another Ramos. Some of you may have read about him. He is from El Salvador, he’s an illegal alien. He brutally attacked and beat a pregnant woman; he also separately committed a crime, when he was a juvenile, on a Muni passenger. Recently, because the city of San Francisco refused to enforce the law and advice ICE of his illegal immigrant status when he brutally attacked this woman and this other passenger in San Francisco, then the consequence was that this guy was freed to offend again. We have a dead father and two dead young men in San Francisco today for the simple refusal to enforce the law. And I don’t have any more details of it because I understand you’ve been here for awhile; we had votes that interrupted us.
But the lesson here is that illegal immigrants are not stupid. They will take advantage of perverse incentives if we provide them for them, and if we say we’re not going to enforce our own rule of law. On the other hand, if we’ll stand up and do the right thing legally, protect our border, insist on our sovereignty, I think eventually we can have a safe, workable, temporary worker program that allows more people opportunities, not to take jobs that Americans have and are prepared to continue to do, but in some cases take jobs that Americans were just not able or even unwilling to do. So enforce the law is a great message, we ought to – obviously, illegals are getting the message. And with that, I’m happy to take a few questions and then turn it back over to CIS.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Any questions?
REP. FEENEY: Yes, sir.
Q: (Inaudible) – support legalizing the status of people who are here illegally, also known as amnesty. After the 1986 amnesty, there was a huge spike in illegal immigration, even though he realized they weren’t even eligible to be covered by that particular amnesty. And in fact, there were more – other than Mexicans who came in, the Mexicans – (inaudible). I’m wondering of the kinds of signals that Congress sent. And one of the things that Steve pointed out in his study, about the fact that amnesty bill failed this last year in the Senate, that there was a decrease in the number of illegals. And I’m wondering, in terms of the signals that were being sent up to Congress because there was also an attempt to pass piecemeal – (inaudible) – legislation which you – (inaudible) – and some other things. So I’m wondering what your crystal-ball analysis is, in terms of what happens after the election, since both candidates who will be trying to pass something like an amnesty.
REP. FEENEY: Well, I think that’s a great question. I would very quickly run through an analogy with where – poor people aren’t dumb either. Really compassionate people in Congress established, during the 1960s, basically the welfare incentives. And effectively, we entered a contract into – into a contract, especially with young, single women. And we said to them if you promise not to work, if you promise not to marry anybody who’s working, we will give you bonuses for having children and by the way, we will give you additional bonuses if you have additional children.
Single mothers weren’t dumb. In some cases, they were trying to escape a very bad situation at home. They took advantage of a system and we created the great welfare society; compassionate people passed that bill. I have compassion for people who want to come share in the American dream. But we’ve sent the wrong message and we put these significant portions of a generation stuck up on – some beneficent opportunities aside, we got them stuck in a welfare trap.
Churchill said this right, many years ago, when he said you know, you can always count on the American people do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else. Simpson-Mazzoli was a trust-me policy, where government promised that we were going to have amnesty for about two, two-and-a-half million people. We were going to secure the border. Well, we did the one portion of the contract; the messages were loud and clear.
I don’t know Senator Obama personally; I know Senator McCain very well. I think Senator McCain has had some policies on immigration that I heartily disagree with. Having said that, one thing about John McCain, whether you agree with him or disagree with him on issues, when he looks you in the eye and says he’s for something, he’s for it. When he looks you in the eye, sometimes unfortunately in my case, and says he’s agin (ph) it, like drilling in ANWR, he means he’s agin (ph) it. And when he said he got the message from the American people that yes, we can have some approach that deals with the need for temporary workers and for access, if it’s appropriate, for more people to come legally, perhaps even stay in America. But he got the message; you have to secure the border first. I think that was a strong message to everybody, and that message has been received not just by voters. I think it’ll make a difference in the fall election, personally, but I also think it’s being received by not only the illegal immigrants that have self-deported, but obviously you have a lesser flow into the United States based on these numbers.
Now, I believe that while Senator McCain may have some instincts that have troubled me, he has pledged that border security will come first. That’s a great step forward, in my position. I’m obviously biased, but when he says that he’ll secure the border first, I believe him.
Thank you, everybody. Look, you know, I’ll say one more time: This country’s been made great by immigrants. All of us are either temporal immigrants in the sense that if we were born here, even if you’re a Native American, you had to learn what it means to be an American citizen by participating in civics lessons, by your mom and dad teaching you things, by your community teaching you what it means to be an American. And whether you’re a child of immigrants or ancestor of immigrants, when those people came to America, they understood what it meant to be an American because we have an American creed that includes everybody, regardless of whether they’re liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. But every immigrant needs to understand that breaking our law is not the way it started, and once you have a disrespect and a contempt for an important law like that, that breeds contempt for all of the laws in a society. And I think we’ve seen some very adverse consequences.
Thank you. I want to applaud CIS again. They’ve done, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive study of what it means if Americans simply stand up and say we believe in the rule of law, and we want elected officials that will enforce the law. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Congressman. Steve will take some questions about the report itself. There are a couple other members on the floor that had said they might be making it. If they do we’ll interrupt, and if they don’t, Steve will continue with his questions. Steve?
MR. CAMAROTA: Over here.
Q: (Inaudible) – I can see people saying, as a result of this report, that the current level of enforcement is working, so why would we want to – (inaudible) – or continue with the policies that are proposed in Congress, with regard to E-Verify, for example. So I would look to you to perhaps speculate that some of the people that may have been leaving already may have been people who are already thinking about leaving, and simply tipped the balance and that does not necessarily mean, as you said, that that will continue. And in order to deal with this problem, an incremental approach is necessary – (inaudible) – as well.
The technical question is what level of confidence do you have in CPS data that 90 percent of illegal immigrants respond? What if it’s 50 percent? That would certainly suggest a much higher illegal immigrant population.
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, here’s the thing: As I’m sure you’re aware, Homeland Security, Pew Hispanic, Urban Institute, myself, Census, we all sort of proceed from the same basic research model that most illegals respond to the survey. In terms of a trend, of course, as long as that stays roughly consistent, it almost doesn’t matter. If 50 percent respond or 100 percent respond, the point is the trend shows the same thing, about an 11 percent decline. So at least in the regard – unless the response rates change, and I discuss that question in the report, and there are technical reasons to think that’s not what’s happening but, you know, we can have that discussion.
On the question of, you know, what else is needed, as I indicated, Homeland Security is doing a lot more. But relative to the size of the problem, remember, assuming these estimates are exactly spot-on, you still have over 11 million people living in the United States illegally. So assume that you solve just roughly 10 percent of the problem and there we go, everything’s fine; no, I don’t think we would say that about any other issue. Obviously, they would want to – if you want to continue these trends – not make pronouncements about amnesty and forthcoming legalizations. And at the same time, you want to expand E-Verify, you want to actually police all the border. You’d want to detain more illegals; you’d want to train more local law enforcement.
What this – if you’re a pro-enforcement person – and as I’ve said, I am – this is a good first step. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to continue, and I have my doubts that it will, partly because of the promises of amnesty that have been made. But you know, so have we done enough to enforce the law? Well, if you’re a pro-enforcement person, you’d have to say 90 percent of the problem is still there, roughly speaking. So no, we haven’t. There’s a lot of other things, people have discussed them; we could lay them out and what they are. But of course, this report says nothing about, again, whether this is desirable or where we should go. What this report tells you is what’s been happening, and the best evidence we have is illegal aliens are leaving and they’re leaving in much larger numbers than they have in the past. And it’s not an increase in deportation; many times, more people appear to be going home on their own than have actually been removed by the government. That’s what these numbers tell us. It’s open to – I could see someone looking at this and saying oh, this is really bad news. We don’t want these people to go, we want them to stay. That’s a perfectly legitimate response to these numbers because the numbers only tell you what’s happening, not where we should go or what’s going to happen next.
Q: You said increase enforcement and you talk about federal enforcement. (Off mike) – local and state –
MR. CAMAROTA: It’s a good question. You know, I did some state analysis. And yeah, a place like Arizona does actually have a larger decline. However, the sample size is much smaller for Arizona. So I was more reluctant to include these. These are statistically significant change between August and January. But the state data do not show statistically significant change, partly because the change would have to be so enormous. They are suggestive. They indicate that in Arizona, which has taken the more tough line, there has been a bigger decline. So that tends to support it.
But here I think is important – and that’s a good question. Anyone who follows this issue know that whenever there is a bill debated in a state legislature or even a city council and enforcement, it gets an enormous amount of coverage in the Spanish-language media, even if it doesn’t pass, as does every enforcement action. So the question is, is the Spanish-language media in effect amplifying the enforcement effect? It might be. I suggest that in the report.
Q: (Inaudible, off mike.)
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, that would be everybody. Oh, I don’t know, we’ll go over here and then I’ll come here.
Q: (Inaudible, off mike.)
MR. CAMAROTA: Oh, hi, Noreen. How are you?
Q: I’m going to ask you a question that I – (inaudible) – which is that there is I think this period where the population starts to decline even though the unemployment rate is – (inaudible) – have you had a chance to figure out – (inaudible)?
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, I wrote you a very long – well, not that long, but a detailed email on this. So that’s okay. The answer is that the decline becomes statistically significant between August and January. And January is when you get the big increase in unemployment. However, the increase in unemployment is not statistically significant until February. So it is reasonable to say that we have a statistically significant decline in this population before we get a statistically significant increase in the unemployment rate.
But again, as I tried to explain in that email, it’s really the trend. It’s month after month showing the same thing that I find more persuasive, rather than just a statistical test between two points. But I did answer that question for you. And we can talk about it later if you like as well.
We’ll go Eric. And then right here. Go ahead, yeah.
Q: (Inaudible) – amount of coverage – (inaudible) – my question is for those CPS data from the Census Bureau, does the Census Bureau – (inaudible) – information in any studies is foreign-born population is fully covered? And does the Census Bureau indicate there may be possible undertones – (inaudible) – this is what the Census Bureau – (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, you know all this research very well. You know the work that’s been done for Sabre Systems, by Center for Immigration Studies has done contract work for the Census Bureau. Pew Hispanic, Jeff Passel has done some work for it. And they have their post-enumeration work. But the short answer is I don’t’ think there’s been any fundamental change in our knowledge about what share of illegals or what share of immigrants or foreign-born are covered by the census.
Actually, I should say this –
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, by the CPS even – I don’t think we’ve – but see the estimates in the CPS are very similar once you control for the population of the universe from the ACS and from the decennial in most cases. So the question is how good a job is the Census Bureau doing? In a few areas, I think they’re doing a lousy job in the limited sense of say, institutionalized population. But that’s not here. These are non-institutionalized people. In the non-institutionalized population, I think they’re doing a pretty good job.
As you know, some work – I don’t know if I’ve sent you this stuff. I’ve been looking at birth records, looking at what number of people are being born in the United States, based on what the census data says like the ACS or the June CPS. And that data generally shows it’s not far out of line. There’s some people who are being missed.
MR. CAMAROTA: No, and we could talk about that afterwards. Maybe the reinterview process is a way of getting it under count within household rather than household undercount. Right here?
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, remember the largest group of visa overstayers, presumably, is Mexico. That’s what previous estimates have shown. But yes, we’re looking at here the likely illegal immigrant population is only the foreign-born Hispanic 18 to 40 years of age who have a high school degree or failed to graduate from high school. That is our target population. As I say, 80 percent are illegal.
As I discuss in the report, what we can’t say for sure is what’s happening to the rest of the non-Hispanic illegal population? The sample is too small. If I put them in here, it would show the same decline. But the reason it would show the decline is because they’re getting swamped by these numbers. Are they really declining? That’s another question.
So it could be that only the, say, the 80 percent of illegals who are Hispanic are declining, not all illegals are declining. That is a distinct possibility. And that’s one limitation of this approach. So it would means that – by the way, if that’s true, then the decline is not 11 percent; it’s more like 9 percent. However, not everyone in this data is illegal. And if you took out the legals and assumed that they didn’t decline at all, it would have to decline by 14 percent to produce these results. So you could say that the range is 9 to 14 percent with 11 being our best middle-range estimate.
MR. CAMAROTA: You would expect these overstays to be somewhat better educated. That’s for sure.
MR. CAMAROTA: One more question? Go ahead.
Q: Do you think that one particular enforcement action is more influential in the illegal population decline?
MR. CAMAROTA: No, I can’t say that. It’s a great question.
Q: The ground versus – (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, which is it? Yeah. I can’t say. It’s a great question. I don’t think we know an answer to that. And so, it’s a good question. I don’t have an answer.
Okay, thank you all for coming.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Steve. And he’ll be here for a while. You can accost him afterwards if you have any other questions. Our other congressional invitees backed out. But we were happy to have one member from each House. The report is online at cis.org along with the rest of our work. And thank you for coming.