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MPI: Millions More Unauthorized Immigrants Cannot Be ‘Hidden’ in Data Estimates; People Leave Footprints
Press Release
Friday, September 21, 2018

MPI: Millions More Unauthorized Immigrants Cannot Be ‘Hidden’ in Data Estimates; People Leave Footprints

WASHINGTON – Migration Policy Institute and Penn State researchers today took issue with a newly published academic exercise that suggests the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population is at least several million larger than demographers in and out of government have independently estimated.

Responding to a method unveiled in a PLOS One article today, the MPI and Penn State researchers find the claim by several academics that the unauthorized population stood somewhere between 16.2 million and 29.5 million in 2016 was built on a foundation of faulty assumptions. Demographers at the Department of Homeland Security, Pew Research Center and Center for Migration Studies of New York, using the same methodology that MPI employs, estimate the unauthorized population ranges from 10.8 million to 12.1 million.

In a commentary and a companion article in PLOS One, the MPI and Penn State researchers, who were asked to peer review the new method, carefully outline why it significantly overstates the number of people who entered the country illegally in the 1990s and who remained.

“We believe these new numbers represent at most an interesting academic exercise but are ultimately greatly off base and thus counterproductive to the public’s very real need to understand the true scope of illegal immigration and how best to address it,” they write in the MPI commentary.

As they note, even researchers in immigration restrictionist groups have concurred there cannot be millions upon millions of extra unauthorized immigrants hidden in the United States, because, in short, people leave footprints that are seen in statistical records—namely in birth, death, school enrollment, housing, and other records.

Read the commentary here: www.migrationpolicy.org/news/people-leave-footprints-millions-more-unauthorized-immigrants-cannot-be-hidden.  

MPI’s estimates of the unauthorized population, at U.S., state and top county levels, are here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/us-immigration-policy-program-data-hub/unauthorized-immigrant-population-profiles.

For a deeper discussion of the residual method used by MPI and others, see: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318768/.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.