The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 2.1 million illegal aliens could be immediately eligible for legalization should the DREAM Act pass into law. As with all estimates, this one is based on a series of assumptions - some worth questioning - but "2.1 million" is a useful number to use when considering the potential numerical impact of the legislation.
The now-infamous "one-time-only" Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 legalized 2.7 million illegal aliens and was considered a comprehensive "blanket" amnesty. Today, "2.1 million" is considered just a "small" piece of the "comprehensive" pie by DREAM Act supporters. Sen. Durbin has floated a version of the bill that would reduce the age limit from 35 to 30 years, but the Migration Policy Institute estimates that would only slightly drop the number of instantly-eligible illegal aliens to just more than 2 million.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than 60 percent of the 2.7 million would fail to obtain permanent legal status "due to factors such as low educational attainment, poverty, and English proficiency," leaving roughly 850,000 on the path to citizenship by their estimate. They assume rigorous verification procedures where there are none. Weak verification, special waivers, and fraud would likely result in a much larger population receiving the initial "conditional" amnesty. Chain migration would further compound the numerical impact.
Occasionally, the media will state the "2.1 million" number as a hard fact, as the Dallas Morning News recently did: "Sen. John Cornyn today accused Democrats of playing politics with immigration policy by forcing a vote on a bill that offers legal status to 2.1 million young illegal immigrants through education, military service or fines," but there are no numerical limits to how many illegal aliens may be legalized by the DREAM Act, and there is no end date to the application period.
Two million, one hundred thousand is one estimate of the initial numerical impact of the DREAM Act; what happens after that is a controversy rarely considered by Congress or the national press.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Nov 30th 2010 @ 11:54am EST