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There may have been as many as 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States last year, according to a study by Northeastern University, but the federal government, charged by the Constitution with regulating immigration and defending the nation’s borders, deported only about 1 percent of them.

The rest were allowed to stay and — if liberal Democrats have their way — may someday be given amnesty and allowed to become full-fledged U.S. citizens, and thus voters.

17 congressional districts

They would equal the total population of 17 congressional districts and amount to about 20 times the difference in the popular vote in last November’s presidential election.

Following the 2000 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau originally estimated there were 6 million illegal immigrants in the country as of last year. But last month the bureau said it was revising that estimate, and might increase it to 9 million. Meanwhile, researchers at Northeastern University have released a report arguing that the real number of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. is 11 million.

In fiscal 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other agencies intercepted at or near the border and deported approximately 1.6 million people trying to enter the country illegally or found ineligible for entry.

But once illegal aliens get past the border, enforcement of U.S. immigration laws virtually stops. In 1999, the INS managed to deport only 72,000 illegal aliens who were willing to leave voluntarily, and another 47,000, who left involuntarily after proceedings. That total, 119,000, is only about 1.08 percent of the total number of illegals that Northeastern estimated are now living in the United States.

Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau, each year about 400,000 new illegal immigrants sneak across our borders and settle permanently in the country.

U.S. immigration laws, in other words, have become a dead letter. They are completely meaningless — at least for people who are wealthy enough, or geographically close enough to the United States, to make it here without a legitimate visa.

“Our Interior Enforcement units have limited resources,” said an INS spokeswoman. “There are civil liberties issued involved in trying to identify illegal residents. Very often their employers protect them because they want inexpensive labor. But we have stepped up our targeting of employers since the 1996 immigration reform.” She noted that the number of immigrants ruled inadmissible or found and deported, despite being minuscule in absolute terms, was a record for the period since 1965, when the current system of immigration laws was largely put in place.

“The INS’s budget has doubled in the last five years,” countered a staffer for outgoing House Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R.-Texas, who counts himself an illegal-immigration hawk. “The INS has not been enforcing the law against illegal immigrants, especially the provisions in the 1996 bill that make worksite enforcement easier. We need an INS commissioner who will aggressively enforce the law at the border and everywhere else. … And as the congressman has said many times, President Clinton’s proposals for amnesties just encouraged more people to enter this country illegally.”

Kent Wissinger, spokesman for incoming subcommittee Chairman Rep. George Gekas, R.-Pa., said, “Congressman Gekas hasn’t come to a conclusion on what needs to be done yet.”

It was over 45 years ago — from 1953 to 1955 — that the INS conducted the last comprehensive push to root out illegal immigrants in the United States. “Some 2.1 million, mostly Mexican, illegal aliens were removed between 1953 and 1955,” wrote David Simcox in a paper for the Center for Immigration Studies, which he chairs. “While abuses marred the effort, illegal immigration stayed under control for more than a decade.”

The INS says that alien-smuggling is now an $8-billion-a-year industry and that smuggling rings are a top focus of its law enforcement efforts.

“We believe this is a good way to target our limited resources and if we make it unprofitable for the smugglers, fewer people will come,” said the INS official. She noted that the daily average detention population of the INS has grown to 20,000 detainees, up from 8,200 in 1997. “Our enforcement efforts have increased tremendously,” she said.

Illegal aliens who reside in the country have the right to legal representation during deportation proceedings. The average case time has dropped since the 1996 reform and is now four years.

The INS’s budget doubled from 1995 to 1999, when it reached $4.3 billion.

Robert Bach, who served as executive associate INS commissioner under President Clinton, said,
“If there is one idea that comes out of looking at these numbers, it is, as we have said many, many times before, that over the past two decades or so the country has had insufficient resources and attention to the illegal immigration problem … and it has accumulated to where it is now a large and substantial issue.”

Related stories:

INS involved in voter fraud

Schippers: Gore pressured INS to win in ’96

Did the INS import votes?

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