By Spencer Raley
A new report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that the illegal alien population has increased to approximately 15.5 million as of the end of 2021, up from 14.5 million in 2020. The report also estimates that this population now costs American taxpayers a net of at least $143.1 billion annually – an increase of $9.4 billion from last year.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has made a point of not just rolling back everything that former President Donald Trump did to secure the southern border and deter illegal immigration, but also dismantle nearly all immigration enforcement measures on the books. This undermining of immigration enforcement ranges from protecting nearly all illegal aliens (including most serious criminals) from deportation to reinstating the Obama-era practice of catch-and-release.
These policies created a self-inflicted border crisis unlike any ever seen before in this country. In Fiscal Year 2021, Customs and Border Protection encountered roughly 2 million unlawful migrants at American land borders, and hundreds of thousands more managed to enter the country without Border Patrol apprehending them.
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It is reasonable to assume that if we refuse to secure the border and effectively eliminate all penalties for residing in the country without authorization, the illegal alien population will increase. That is exactly what has happened since Biden took office.
The findings from this study also correlates with the historic rise in illegal alien encounters occurring at the southern border since Biden took office. FAIR also points to an improving economy, coupled with the elimination of nearly all penalties for entering and residing in the country illegally, as the primary reasons for this dramatic increase.
Indeed, FAIR found last year that the illegal alien population remained relatively static in 2020 due to economic and travel constraints stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic along with the implementation of various immigration reforms under President Trump. However, that pause in the growth of this population demographic has clearly ended.
Calculating the total number of illegal aliens in the country is an inexact science. It’s safe to assume that large numbers of illegal aliens avoid responding to Census surveys. Indeed, in the past, most reputable research organizations assumed that estimates based on Census Bureau data undercounted the illegal alien population by 15 to 30 percent.
Many organizations that favor mass immigration have slowly reduced their undercount assumptions over time, giving an illusion that the illegal alien population has remained static or is even declining. FAIR believes that such practices are dishonest and based upon faulty methodological assumptions about the accuracy of Census Bureau data, and therefore continues to use historical undercount assumptions.
There is no indication that the rapid growth of the illegal alien population and the associated costs will abate anytime soon. In fact, illegal alien encounters at the southern border so far in FY 2022 are on pace to far surpass totals from last year. Moreover, with Title 42 slated to end in late May, the Department of Homeland Security will begin releasing nearly all encountered illegal aliens into the country. Currently, the U.S. returns approximately half of all encountered illegal aliens to their home country under the authority granted by Title 42. Combined with the fact that DHS implemented even more restrictions regarding who ICE can apprehend and remove from the country, the illegal alien population will continue to grow at a dramatic, exponential rate.
Spencer Raley is Director of Research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).