Politicians usually reserve Fridays to release news items for which they don’t want a whole lot of media coverage. Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released its annual estimates of the illegal-alien population in the United States. The number remains mostly unchanged – DHS estimates that there are 11.5 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. as of January 2011 compared to 11.6 million in January of 2010. But several things stand out in this year’s report.

For starters, I find it interesting that DHS has changed some of the information it provides in its most telling data tables. Both tables 3 and 4 of the report list the estimated current and historical populations of illegal aliens, but this year’s report only shows estimates from 2011 and 2000. Last year’s report listed estimates for each of the last 6 years and 2000.

(The top table is from the most recent report. The bottom table is from last year’s report. The table descriptions are the same, but the years shown in each table are different.)


Why would DHS do this?

I think there are a few reasons. First, the number of illegal aliens living in the U.S. rose steadily during George W. Bush’s second administration to an all-time high of 11.8 million in 2007. But since then, that number (according to last year’s report) has declined a little bit each year that Pres. Barack Obama has been in office. The estimate for 2011 was the first time during the Obama Administration that the estimate has increased, so instead of highlighting that increase, DHS compares the 2011 estimate to the estimate in 2000.

I just said that the estimate increased from 2011 to 2010, but I mentioned earlier that this year’s estimate is about the same as last year’s estimate, which brings me to my second reason for changing the tables. In this year’s report, the DHS estimate from 2010 is significantly different than what the agency previously reported. In last year’s report, DHS estimated that there were 10.8 million illegal aliens living in the U.S., but the new report says the 2010 estimate was 11.6 million illegal aliens.

The report does note that the 2010 number was “revised”, but an adjustment of nearly 10% is a pretty big Oops.

Yet, not one of the 127 news articles written about the report that I found through a Google news search included the fact that DHS increased their 2010 estimate by 800,000 despite an entire section in the report discussing the revision and the changes in methodology to report more accurate numbers in the future.

I think DHS was trying to hide another fact by changing the data tables. Over the weekend, the Arizona Republic noted that Arizona’s illegal-alien population has “plunged” since the state began taking an Attrition Through Enforcement approach. But you can’t come to that conclusion by looking at this year’s report since it’s most likely something that the Administration would like to keep under wraps. Thankfully, I, and the Arizona Republic, keep a hard copy of each year’s report.

(The top table is from the most recent report. The bottom table is from last year’s report. Similar to tables 3 shown above, the descriptions are the same, but the years in each table are different.)

In 2008, 560,000 illegal aliens lived in Arizona, and the state ranked fifth among all states in the country for the highest population. But in that same year, the state legislature passed a mandatory E-Verify bill for all employers. By 2009, the illegal-alien population in Arizona was down 100,000 to 460,000.

In 2010, the state passed SB1070, the comprehensive immigration enforcement bill that will be argued before the Supreme Court next month. In this year’s DHS report, the illegal-alien population in Arizona is down to 360,000 – another 100,000 – ranking the state ninth overall. That’s a 38% decrease since passing two Attrition Through Enforcement bills.

The states that benefited — California has seen a small jump since 2008 and Texas has seen an increase of 110,000 illegal aliens. Neither state has an E-Verify law (California has actually passed legislation forbidding county and local governments from enacting a mandatory E-Verify ordinance) and both states allow illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition rates at its public universities and colleges.

Other states that, like Arizona, have seen a decrease in recent years include Florida and Georgia. Florida’s governor issued an executive order requiring state employers and contractors to use E-Verify in 2009, while Georgia has passed an E-Verify and enforcement bill modeled after Arizona’s laws. Most of the other states in the top 10 have remained the same over the last several years.

So what does this all mean? It means that the illegal-alien population really hasn’t changed since the day former-Pres. Bush left office and the day Pres. Obama entered office. It’s a credit to the administration to level off the numbers after they increased annually for much of the last decade, but more likely a result of a bad economy.

In addition, it proves that all the talk about record-breaking deportations and a border that’s “never been more secure” is just that – talk. The numbers show that neither the deportations nor the border improvements have done a thing to reduce the overall illegal-alien population.

Until Congress takes steps to remove the top illegal immigration magnet – Jobs – by following Arizona’s lead and passing a 50-state, mandatory E-Verify bill will we see the numbers really begin to fall.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA

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