Immigration problems our president will face in 2021
By Nolan Rappaport

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Whoever is president the day after inauguration 2021 is going to face serious immigration issues, and he may not be able to get the funds needed to deal with them.

How large is the undocumented alien population, really?

The president should establish a more reliable method for estimating the size of the undocumented alien population.
Pew Research Center's (PEW) estimates of the undocumented alien population are highly respected — even the Congressional Research Service relies on them. PEW uses a process known as the “residual method,” an approach also used by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The problem is it doesn’t produce reliable results.

The residual method uses data from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Surveys (ACS) to estimate the number of foreign born people in the United States. It subtracts an estimate of the number of lawful immigrants in the United States from the foreign-born population estimate, and the remainder is the estimate of the undocumented alien population.

The ACS surveys are taken from 1 percent of the population, which isn’t a statistically significant percentage. Moreover, it asks about a person’s race, place of birth, whether he is a citizen of the United States, and other questions that undocumented aliens might not be willing to answer truthfully.

A more reliable method for estimating the size of the undocumented alien population is needed for enforcement purposes and to estimate how many undocumented aliens would participate in a legalization program.

There is also a challenge in trying to track the performance of border security measures, specifically how many aliens successfully cross the border illegally each year. Section 1092 of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Actrequires the DHS Secretary to make an annual Border Security Metrics Report to Congress on the effectiveness of methods being used to secure the border between ports of entry.

The report must include estimates of the number of undetected unlawful entries; “Undetected unlawful entries” are illegal border crossings between ports of entry that are not directly or indirectly observed or detected by the Border Patrol.
The problem is that DHS can’t count crossings that are not observed or detected.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at