Diane West’s Bogus Immigrant Number

Over at the Washington Times Diane West writes the following,

The bill’s crazy provisions for allowing 66 million new legal immigrants into the United States by 2026 (twice the population of Canada) aside, the Senate bill grants citizenship rights to 10 million to 20 million mainly Mexican illegal aliens who have sneaked into the country since the last U.S. amnesty for illegal aliens in 1986.

The numbers I’ve seen in regards to the number of illegal immigrants in this country ranges between 8 million to as high as 12 million. We could split the difference and say 10 million. Where does this 10 to 20 million that West has come up with come from…besides her backside? Beats me, but is sure does make the immigration sound bad, in fact if we split the difference with West’s number we’d get 15 million, half again as many as most other sources indicate. And if we go with the larger numbers, 12 million vs 20 million, West has increased the number by 80%.

Oh well, what is a “white lie” when you cause is “just”?

Update: Steven Taylor raises a good point about the 66 million people as well. To get a number like that over the next 20 years Mexico would practically have to empty itself into the United States (the population of Mexico is about 107 million). With the kinds of numbers that Diane West is throwing around in 42 years there wont be a single person left in all of Mexico. Basically, Diane West is an innumerate…hmmm I wonder if that qualifies her as a low-skilled worker? At any rate the Washinton Times is paying her too much. They should probably outsource her position to India.

Update (James Joyner): Robert Samuelson is using the 40 million number today as well. Deep in the piece, we get a cite:

The doubling of legal immigration under the Senate bill that I cited at the outset comes from a previously unreported estimate made by White House economists. Because the president praised the Senate bill, the administration implicitly favors a big immigration expansion. The White House estimate could be low. Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation has a higher figure. The CBO has a projection that the White House describes as close to its own. But all the forecasts envision huge increases, diverging only because they make different assumptions of how the Senate bill would operate in practice.

Our immigration laws involve a bewildering array of categories by which people can get a “green card” — the right to stay permanently. The Senate bill dramatically expands many of these categories and creates a large new one: “guest workers.” The term is really a misnomer, because most guest workers would receive an automatic right to apply for a green card and remain. The Senate bill authorizes 200,000 guest workers annually, plus their spouses and minor children.

The methodology of these estimates is not clear. Since the metric is “immigrants,” however, it may well be that some significant part of the increase would be non-Mexican and non-poor.

Additional cites:

The CBO report, though, gives a much lower number:

CBO Immigrants Table 2 S. 2611 contains numerous provisions that would permit additional immigrants to enter the United States and allow certain undocumented immigrants (sometimes referred to as unauthorized or illegal aliens) now living in the United States to obtain legal immigration status. CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would increase the population in the United States by nearly 8 million residents by 2016 (see Table 2). [thumbnailed right]

Given that the nature of the report was cost estimates–which are themselves interesting–there is no real discussion of how the figures are obtained, other than the actual numbers in the bill for increased family migration and guest worker permits.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. For that matter, where does the 66 million come from?

    As I pointed out at my place a little while ago–to believe some of these projections, one has to assume that Mexico is literally going to empty itself into the US.

  2. RiverRat says:

    Actually, the number of undocumented residents ranges (some of which are American born) from 8 to 20 Million. You’re accepting a lower to mid range statistic because it’s been repeated with certainty by the open boarders/media coalition.

    The truth is nobody really knows and that’s the firking problem. It’s time for a biometrically secure worker (Social Security/entitlement) ID Card for all residents.

    Unrestricted immigration into a semi-Socialist American society became important after the last great wave 100 years ago when there was no statist welfare system. Fine, supply and demand for labor…let them come. But, I don’t want to pay for them when they’re not meeting the cost of the statist entitlements they’re consuming.

    Any American should be opposed to being taxed to pay for financial entitlements for every escapee from the world’s kleptocracies.

    6th grade educated stoop labor from Latin America will never meet the cost of currently available entitlements.

    Let them come and let them starve just like my grandparents…who didn’t starve. Totally Darwinian.

  3. Steve Verdon says:


    This is only the second time I’ve heard the 20 million number and I’ve been reading the immigration stuff for a while now. And I note you don’t source it either.

    As for the welfare system and immigrants, many social services (at the federal level) were made illegal to them during the Clinton Administration.

    Further, your point works for any Aemrican who doesn’t pay enough in taxes. Do you want to cut them off too? I’m perfectly fine with reducing the Welfare state. Somehow…I don’t think you are.

  4. TLB says:

    The 20 million number is sourced to Bear Stearns. According to Wikipedia, there are over 500,000,000 people in all of Latin America.

    Not all our illegal aliens come from Mexico now, and Mexico might in fact create a wonderful new industry to help their “friends” to the north: serving as a transshipment point for illegal aliens (or “guest” workers!) from Brasil, Colombia, Venezuela, or even Thailand or Indonesia. They’re all good-hearted people, right?

  5. Steve Verdon says:


    So, we have one, un-reviewed “study” with data sources that nobody has seen that is the basis for the 20 million number? Gee…that is what I call top level research.

    As for illegal immigrants the bulk of them are from Mexico, and getting through Mexico from Central or S. America is rather difficult given the hostile environment in Mexico towards illegals there. So I’m thinking “No” on the rest of your comment.

  6. Alan Kellogg says:

    Everybody in Mexico moves to the United States. Big problem? No, big opportunity. We send them all back to the former Mexico, as Americans. Think of all the construction projects and earthquake retro-fits. For that matter, we could keep the EPA gainfully occupied for decades on SuperFund clean-ups alone. Then you have all the retirees moving from Florida to Mazatlan. Fewer hurricanes and no alligators to worry about. Plus Florida can raze all the ill considered retirement development. I see a win-win here. 🙂

  7. The last number I heard was that about 57% of illegal aliens come from Mexico. Of course since there are such wide guesstimates on the total number, I would take the 57% with a grain of salt.

    I suspect that we may find that the senate immigration bill would increase immigration from many more poor countries, not just Mexico. It may well turn out that the 66 million (or I believe the White house was suggesting it would be 40 million) is real, but the mix of who would be coming here may change. If for no other reason than what you describe that Mexico couldn’t send enough people.

  8. TLB says:

    Mexico’s concern is with illegal aliens who settle there. They’re corrupt enough and they know we’re weak enough to serve as a transshipment point once most of those Mexicans who want to leave have done so.

  9. RJN says:

    Social Security perks, free medical care, and free public schools; looks like welfare to me.

  10. Steve Verdon says:


    You can have free medical care too. Just cancel your health insurance and then go to the emergency room for your medical needs, refuse to pay, and there you are.