When we turn to the Pew Report from whence the 11 million number springs we are treated to
Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population or defines their demographic characteristics based on specific enumeration. There is, however, a widely-accepted methodology for estimating the size and certain characteristics, such as age and national origins, of the undocumented population based on official data. This methodology essentially subtracts the estimated legal-immigrant population from the total foreign-born population and treats the residual as a source of data on the unauthorized migrant population (Passel, Van Hook, and Bean 2004). The estimates reported here use this methodology with data from the March 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, is best known as the source for monthly unemployment statistics. Every March both the sample size and the questionnaire of the CPS are augmented to produce the Annual Social and Economic Supplement which provides additional data on several additional subjects including the foreign-born population. As of March 2004, there were an estimated 10.3 million unauthorized migrants living in the United States. A comparison to past estimates derived with the same methodology shows that the undocumented population has grown rapidly in recent years. There were 8.4 million unauthorized migrants living in the United States in April 2000 according to estimates derived from Census 2000 (Passel, Van Hook, and Bean 2004). Thus, average annual growth over the 4-year period since 2000 was about 485,000 per year. Assuming this rate of growth held steady, the best estimate for March 2005 points to a figure of somewhat less than 11 million for the number of undocumented residents.
Sounds pretty impressive and factual, doesn't it? You take a starting number of 8.4 million and add (4 X 485,000) and, voila, even the math-is-hard crowd can get to 10.3 million in 2004 and then add another 970,000 to get over 11 million in 2006. Plus the report is very careful to note that "Neither the Census Bureau nor any other U.S. government agency counts the unauthorized migrant population" so I suppose there is no reason to check any other statistics...but, heck, I like statistics and there might be something that was (unintentionally, to be sure) overlooked. Now, who might actually try and track the illegal alien population, hmmm....
The INS? Why yes, yes they do, right here. How do the numbers compare? Well, the INS estimate of the illegal alien population in January, 2000 is 7 million using what appears to be a reasonable method of analysis. They also use a rate of 350,000 per year net increase versus the Pew number of 485,000 per year which using the same formula that Pew uses gives a 2006 total of 9.1 million.
Why would Pew play with the numbers? Why do stores price items at $9.99 rather than $10? Exaggeration and puffery are staples of salesmanship and Pew is definitely peddling. Pew and the other "public interest" groups involved in this are repeating the methods that gave us McCain-Feingold - and the 527's that go with it. Our politicians, bless their craven hearts and pea brains, are fixing to give us an immigration bill that will rival McCain-Feingold both in complexity and in stupidity.
There is nothing inherently wrong with our current immigration laws. Increasing money allocated to enforcement would cut the 350,000 number over time. There is no reason for an amnesty nor is there any reason that a visa program that adequately addresses a worker shortage cannot be devised and implemented.
That said, the American electorate is about to prove PT Barnum to have been prescient, once again - with more than a little help from "public interest" groups whose main interest is the clandestine advancement of political goals which remain carefully hidden in the shadows.