By Zachary Stieber
The illegal immigrant population in the United States increased by one million in President Joe Biden’s first year in office, according to a new report.
At the end of 2021, 15.5 million illegal aliens were residing in the country, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimated.
After rolling back key Trump-era policies, Biden presided over the largest number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S.–Mexico border in a calendar year in history. Almost 1.9 million arrests were recorded.
“Massive numbers of illegal aliens are coming into the United States and they’re staying here,” Spencer Raley, research director at FAIR and author of the new report, told The Epoch Times.
The state with the most illegal immigrants, according to the new estimate, is California, with 3.2 million. Texas has 2.2 million, Florida has 1.1 million, and New York has 1 million.
At the bottom of the list are West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota—all with under 10,000 illegal aliens.
The cost to taxpayers was estimated at $143 billion, up some $9 billion from a year prior when FAIR last released an estimate.
The group, which promotes policies that would reduce legal and illegal immigration in order to let America “manage growth, address environmental concerns, and maintain a high quality of life,” reached the figure by using Census Bureau data to calculate the total number of foreign-born residents presumed to be living in the United States.
After subtracting the total number of lawfully present immigrants, they add 30 percent to the total because of assumed underestimation.
Other groups use different methods to calculate the illegal immigrant population, which can’t be definitively ascertained because some escape detection.
Yale researchers pegged the population at around 22 million as of 2016. Edward Kaplan, one of the researchers, more recently estimated the population at approximately 20 million.
The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, said in its latest estimate (pdf) that as of Jan. 1, 2018, roughly 11.4 million illegal aliens were residing in the country, unchanged from their estimate three years prior. And Pew Research estimated just 10.5 million illegal immigrants were living in the country in 2017.
Whatever the number, it has likely increased in recent months as the Biden administration repeatedly loosens both border enforcement measures and policies aimed at locating illegal immigrants for deportation.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a Biden appointee, has in a series of memorandums curtailed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from detaining and moving to deport aliens.
The guidelines are based in part on the principle that “many individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States have been contributing members to this country,” Mayorkas told the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on April 28.
The administration “has effectively abolished” ICE and is preventing Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol, from securing the southern border, FAIR said in its report.
Still, there are other factors at play, as the illegal alien population also increased during the Trump administration.
Per FAIR estimates, the population rose by two million across President Donald Trump’s four years in office.
If the increase under Biden continues apace, it would reach double that over four years.
“During the Trump administration, we did see a significant increase in the illegal alien population, but we never saw it to this degree,” Raley said.
A strong economy draws illegal aliens who want jobs, according to FAIR. Portions of the economy have recovered from the widespread lockdowns in 2020, but still haven’t reached pre-pandemic levels.
Proposed solutions include reinstating fully many of the more successful Trump-era border policies such as the “Remain in Mexico” program.
That approach “would have to be supplemented by enforcement mechanisms inside the country,” Raley said. “You would have to crack down on employers, which would probably entice a lot of illegal aliens to go home on their own accord, because the things that brought them here are no longer available. But you would also have to get serious again about taking the handcuffs off ICE and letting them apprehend immigration lawbreakers and ultimately remove them.”