Could We Have 13,276,000 Legalization Applicants?

By David North on March 21, 2014

Is there a U.S.-based set of statistics that predicts that more than 13 million illegal aliens might sign up for legalization, were it to be enacted? This would not be a measure of those eligible; it would be a count of those signing up.

Is there such a projection based on official government records?

The answer to both questions is "yes", although the database is an obscure one.

The statistics have been created by the government of American Samoa. That government is currently running what sounds like a loosely administered amnesty program for all the illegals (mostly from what used to be called Western Samoa) in its jurisdiction. American Samoa, unique among U.S. territories, runs its own immigration program, totally outside the strictures of the INA.

According to a recent story in the territory's one daily newspaper, Samoa News, counsel to Governor Steven Watson has reported that 2,400 applicants have registered so far. The local government has extended the opening for two more weeks to make sure that it covers everyone eligible.

Let's compare those insular numbers to mainland numbers. The population of American Samoa, as of the 2010 census, was 55,519; so 2,400 legalization registrants amounts to 4.3 percent of the population. If you apply that same percentage to the mainland, where the 2010 population was 308,745,000, you would get 13,276,000 registered legalization applicants.

The heroic assumption is that the percentage of illegal aliens is the same in the islands as it is on the mainland, which is probably not exactly the case. Though I have not been to these islands, I worked with that government when I was with the U.S. Department of the Interior and have a strong sense that its enforcement of its own immigration law is even more relaxed than it is on the mainland, and that corruption is much more likely to occur there than here. So the 13 million-plus registrants is perhaps too large a figure.

But it is a splash of cold water to the face to know that there is a jurisdiction under the U.S. flag where every 23rd person is an illegal alien.

Meanwhile, the Samoa News has some interesting takes on the innards of their legalization program.

For instance, the program is being staffed by a group of local government officials who go from island to island to sign up the illegals. The final stop on this tour was on the lightly populated Manu'a Islands, a good distance east of the main island, Tutuila, where Pago Pago is located. The logistics for that trip were complicated by the fact that the local government's one ferry to Manu'a has been disabled for some weeks (mechanical equipment in American Samoa often suffers that fate). So an earlier news account said that the legalization team might have to make the trip in a catamaran. It is a little like our Department of Homeland Security planning to finish its legalization program on Martha's Vineyard and having to use a sailboat to get there.

Further, according to the local paper, there were some problems with the local amnesty. Some people applied more than once, I guess to make sure that they were on the rolls. Others had the (mistaken) impression that the legalization program would not only make their immigration status legal, it would also clear away any debts they had with the local government, such as unpaid hospital bills.

The amnesty program in these islands will not confer either U.S. citizenship, or a green card, or U.S. national status on the aliens; nor will it set them on the path to any of these statuses. It will simply prevent them from being deported. American Samoans are U.S. nationals, not citizens; they can fairly easily convert to citizen status after living in the United States for a while.

It will be interesting to see how this local amnesty plays out in the end.