‘From an operational standpoint, it doesn’t matter too much. We deal with what’s in front of us…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said there could be as many as 22 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
Citing a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cuccinelli said that the number of illegals is actually much higher than most experts think, though an accurate count is difficult to calculate.
Efforts to include a citizenship question on the upcoming decennial U.S. census were blocked by left-wing activists in a series of court cases. Opponents claimed that the question would result in an under-count of the number of illegals, thereby impacting the federal funds and political influence of states that harbor them.
The “widely accepted” number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is typically anywhere between 11 and 14 million. But the MIT study nearly doubles that number.
Cuccinelli said that based on the Department of Homeland Security’s experience, the MIT study seems to be correct.
“That’s the one I know. I just use it as a reference point,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.
However, he noted that the actual number was more of an academic argument than a practical one, as far as he was concerned.
“[F]rom an operational standpoint, it doesn’t matter too much,” Cuccinelli said. “We deal with what’s in front of us. So that’s the perspective that I bring to it. It’s useful to know. It’s an important thing at a 100,000-foot level.”
The number of illegal immigrants will continue to go up if Congress refuses to work with President Donald Trump to secure the border, Cuccinelli said, adding that Trump’s “America First” immigration policies work in the U.S.’s best interests.
“The president has made no secret of the fact that he believes the American immigration system, first and foremost, is set up to work for America,” he said.
“That means economically and for the people here—and to do that, we put out invitations and offerings to people from around the world, along the lines that Congress puts in the law,” he added.
A recent Trump policy change sought to require that any so-called public charges—immigrants who would be dependent on welfare from U.S. taxpayers—be denied citizenship automatically.
However, that policy, like nearly all of the president’s efforts to curb illegal immigration, has been held up by activist lawsuits in the left-leaning federal courts.
Cuccinelli said any permanent solution to the flood of illegal immigrants would require cooperation from obstructionist Democrats.
“[R]eally, the long-term solution for that isn’t on the horizon until the immigration reform that the president has talked about passes,” he said, “and we restructure our immigration system to prioritize the employment side of immigration.”
Even so, the Trump administration’s short-term efforts, such as pressuring Mexico and other Central American governments to take more responsibility for so-called asylum-seekers, have made an impact.
Illegal immigration across the southern border has decreased significantly this past year, according to recent DHS reports.
Cuccinelli credited the negotiations with Mexico and Trump’s ongoing support of immigration officials at the border.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.