Golly, Did Italy Really Give Legal Status to 12 Million Illegal Aliens?

By David North on May 24, 2012

If you take a quick look at the bottom of the figure below you may come to the conclusion that Italy has legalized 12,170,000 illegal aliens.

That's a very large number, particularly in the context of that nation's population of 60,500,000 or so, and the estimates that we have 11 to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, with a population more than five times that of Italy.

But if you look a little more closely at the figure (and some more-migration writers should have done this, too) you will see that while Italy has had more legalizations than any other nation in Europe, the number shown is 12,17,000. That is clearly wrong.

Either the zero to the right of the seven has been dropped which would make that corrected number 12,170,000, or, more likely, the comma after the two should have been after the one, so that corrected number would be 1,217,000.

What makes this error so arresting is that it has been published at least three times over the last three years, the last two times by the lushly funded Migration Policy Institute, the establishmentarian think tank of the more-migration people. With a fund balance of $7,452,930 at the end of its fiscal year 2009 and eight staffers making more than $100,000 a year, the organization probably could afford a proofreader. (The fiscal data are from the MPI's IRS Form 990, which is a matter of public record.)

The figure with the 12,17,000 legalizations apparently first appeared in a book published by Amsterdam University Press in 2009; its name and the name of its authors appear at the bottom of the figure.

Next, in December of last year, MPI re-published the figure, as shown, in an article titled "Regularizations in the European Union: The Contentious Policy Tool", and then earlier this month the same figure, with the same error, appeared as an illustration to another MPI article, "Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States and Europe: The Use of Legalization/Regularization as a Policy Tool".

The links were working at the time this blog was filed, but MPI may have changed things thereafter.

The misplaced legalization beneficiaries in Italy, or the wandering comma, to one side, the MPI article had some interesting data on the subject. For example, the United States granted legal status to more people than all the European legalizations put together through its various legalizations, notably IRCA in the 1980s. The article does not make this point but it shows 3,760,618 U.S. legalizations in 1986 through 2009, as compared with 3,244,382 in Europe in the years 1996-2007.

MPI uses a definition of U.S. legalizations that excludes some activities that I would characterize as legalizations, so I think the number they use for the United States is smaller than it should be. (Granting legal status on an ongoing basis to certain illegal alien juveniles in the hands of American court systems and calling them special immigrants is one such class that I would include that they do not.)

The article also divides legalization beneficiaries into three subheadings: general legalization, such as those receiving benefits from the mainline IRCA program of 1986; registry fillers, those saying simply that they had been in the United States in illegal status for a very long time; and special groups, such as those in the Chinese Student Protection Act of October 9, 1992.

As one who first studied overseas legalization efforts in the 1970s (under relatively tiny grants from the Ford Foundation and the German Marshall Fund), I found the current work of special interest, notably the finding — again illustrated by the figure — that the nations of southern Europe have been much more generous in these programs than their more prosperous neighbors in northern Europe.

One wonders if there is any cause-and-effect relationship between the open-door amnesty policies of Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, at the bottom end of the figure, and the financial problems that those four economies — particularly Greece — are encountering, problems that are less severe for many of the countries higher on the figure, such as Germany, the U.K., and Sweden.

MPI does not speculate about such things.