California Group Estimates Illegal Population up to 38 Million

Published on October 24th, 2007

By Chris Casacchia, The Business Journal of Phoenix
October 8, 2007

A California anti-immigration lobbying group estimates there are 20 to 38 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., far more than federal government agencies report.

Representatives from the Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Stabilization last week told listeners at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that illegal immigrants shun census counts, fearing reprisal.

In a Sept. 27 press conference at the Phoenix headquarters of the Maricopa Association of Governments, U.S. Census Bureau Deputy Director Preston Jay Waite said the agency had an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the 2000 census to back off arrests of illegal immigrants during the count.

He was in town to unveil new census numbers for Maricopa County.

Waite, however, said the Census Bureau has not asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to suspend its aggressive efforts to arrest illegal immigrants during the 2010 count.

Immigration counts differ greatly from federal reporting agencies and policy groups. Bear Stearns’ research indicates that the illegal immigrant population is underreported by the U.S. Census by as much as a one-half. The Census Bureau estimates 8.7 million illegals; the Urban Institute, 9.3 million; and a Center for Immigration Studies report suggests an illegal population of 10 million. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S.

U.S. Census counts have major funding implications for states because, in some cases, funds are based on population figures of all people living in their area, regardless of citizenship status.

On Jan. 1, Arizona will enact what is widely believed to be the nation’s strictest immigration law. Known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, employers will be required to verify employment eligibility through a federal database. Those who knowingly hire unauthorized aliens will face criminal penalties up to and including suspension or termination of a company’s business license if found guilty.

According to an opinion poll by WestGroup Research, three out of four respondents (77 percent) think Arizona’s new employee sanctions law will reduce illegal immigration by 50 percent or less.

Skepticism is based on the belief that people will find a way to get around the law (35 percent) and that the law will not be enforced (16 percent).

About half of Arizona residents surveyed (52 percent) had heard of the new law, with high-income respondents ($75,000 or more a year) being most likely to be aware of the law (69 percent).

Business groups and civil rights advocates, including Chicanos Por La Causa and Somos America, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of Arizona claiming the law is unconstitutional and could lead to discrimination against minorities.

The lawsuit alleges that the measure violates both the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process and federal immigration law that makes use of the database voluntary.

The September WestGroup study was conducted with a random sample of 406 adults in the Phoenix metropolitan area and contains a 5 percent margin for error.

Copyright 2007 The Business Journal of Phoenix

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