Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
After visiting Laredo, Donald Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe July 24 and disputed a widely used estimate of the number of immigrants living in the country without legal authorization.
"I don't think the 11 million -- which is a number you have been hearing for many many years, I've been hearing that number for five years -- I don't think that is an accurate number anymore," Trump said. "I am now hearing it's 30 million, it could be 34 million, which is a much bigger problem."
Host Joe Scarborough: "Who are you hearing that from?"
Trump: "I am hearing it from other people, and I have seen it written in various newspapers. The truth is the government has no idea how many illegals are here."
PolitiFact Florida wondered if Trump was right.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security comes up with an estimate of the number of illegal immigrants each year. Its most recent estimate was 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants as of January 2012. That includes those who entered the United States illegally and those who overstayed visas.
According to the department’s estimates, the number of illegal immigrants peaked at around 12 million in 2007 and then declined to closer to 11 million.
The Homeland Security figure is in the same ballpark as several independent organizations that study illegal immigration, including Pew Research Center (11.3 million); the Center for Migration Studies (11 million), which studies migration and promotes policies that safeguard the rights of migrants, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for low levels of legal immigration (11-12 million).
All of them arrive at their figures by subtracting known legal immigrants from the total number of foreign-born people documented in the U.S. census and then controlling for the estimated percentage of unauthorized immigrants who refuse to answer the census.
Experts didn’t find Trump’s figure solid.
"There are, to my knowledge, no credible, research-based estimates of 30 million," said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer for the Pew Research Center. "The 11-12 million range is broadly accepted by almost all researchers and immigration advocates (regardless of perspective)."
Trump provided no proof that the number of illegal immigrants is actually triple the widespread consensus. His claim caught fire, Pants on Fire!