Let’s start with two obvious facts.

One is that no one can no for sure.

The other is that the “11 million” we have heard for years cannot possibly be right if, even as they stream into our country through the sieve we call the Mexican Border, it has remained the same in all this time.

Well, three Yale professors, Mohammad M. Fazel-Zarandi, Jonathan S. Feinstein and Edward H. Kaplan, have done some demographic modeling to make a more accurate determination.  And here, from their article at, is what they’ve come up with:

The results of our analysis are clear: The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States is estimated to be substantially larger than has been appreciated at least in widely accepted previous estimates. Even an estimate based on what we view as conservative assumptions, in some cases unrealistically so, generates an estimate of 16.7 million, well above the conventional estimate of 11.3 million. The mean of our simulations, which range over more standard but still conservative parameter values, is 22.1 million, essentially twice the current widely accepted estimate; the ninety-five percent probability interval is [16.2,29.5].

Even for the scenario presuming net inflows of 0.5 million per year for 1990-98 our results still exceed the current estimates substantially. The mean estimate is 17.0 million with a 95% probability interval of 13.5 million to 21.1 million. The conservative estimate for this scenario is 14.0 million, still significantly above the widely accepted estimate of 11.3 million.

Does that look more realistic to you?

Again, with the understanding that no one, Yale faculty or otherwise, can possibly know for sure, their estimates (which the article goes into excruciating detail to explain) make a lot more sense to me than the antiquated 11 million mantra.

Now:  what are we going to do about it?

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