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Border Wall Under Construction in El Paso Amid Fresh Debate Over Number of Undocumented Immigrants

As construction of a section of border wall begins in El Paso, a new debate is raging about how many undocumented immigrants are present in the United States. 

The El Paso Times reports:

Construction of the border wall in the Chihuahuita neighborhood of Downtown El Paso continued Wednesday beneath the Stanton Street International Bridge. The U.S. Border Patrol announced Friday that the new wall would replace existing fencing south of Downtown El Paso and that construction would begin Saturday as part of President Donald Trump's executive order authorizing construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. 

Meantime a study released by researchers at Yale claims previous estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the country are way low. 

“Generally accepted estimates put the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States at approximately 11.3 million. A new study, using mathematical modeling on a range of demographic and immigration operations data, suggests that the actual undocumented immigrant population may be more than 22 million," per Yale Insights

"Using mathematical modeling on a range of demographic and immigration operations data, the researchers estimate there are 22.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States," Insights reported. "Even using parameters intentionally aimed at producing an extremely conservative estimate, they found a population of 16.7 million undocumented immigrants."

“Our original idea was just to do a sanity check on the existing number,” said Edward Kaplan, the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Operations Research at the Yale School of Management. “Instead of a number which was smaller, we got a number that was 50% higher. That caused us to scratch our heads.”

But the Center for Immigration Studies was quick to push back, arguing “the findings are unsupportable.”

“Accepting that there are 22 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. also requires accepting that every Census Bureau survey missed huge numbers of people and that most administrative data from the federal government is woefully incomplete,” wrote Steven Camarota, the center’s Director of Research.

“There is no body of research that corroborates such a claim,” Camarota said. 

“Most prior research subtracts the legal immigrant population, based on administrative data, from the total foreign-born identified in Census surveys. The difference represents the number of illegal immigrants, which is then adjusted upward to reflect undercount,” Camarota wrote. “Using this method, most researchers find that 10 to 11 million illegal immigrants are included in Census Bureau surveys, with perhaps one million missed based on other research. But if the new study is correct, then the Census Bureau is missing another 11 million illegal immigrants, something that would have obvious impacts in other datasets and in the real world.”

"No matter how carefully a theoretical model may seem to be calibrated, it is not useful unless it is consistent with the real world," said Camarota. "It is incumbent upon the authors to explain how their estimate can be reconciled with other data. It seems extremely unlikely that the Census Bureau, the Department of Education, and other records of vital statistics miss so many people year after year.”