DREAM Act Offers Amnesty to 2.1 Million

By Steven A. Camarota October 2007



Contact: Steven Camarota
sac@cis.org
202-466-8185

WASHINGTON (October 23, 2007) — The Senate is currently considering the DREAM Act (S.2205). Some have argued that only 60,000 illegal immigrants would be granted amnesty annually under the Act, but a new analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies of 2007 Census Bureau data shows millions of potential beneficiaries.


  • An estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants under age 18 have been here long enough to qualify for legalization under the DREAM Act. There are a total of 1.7 million illegal aliens estimated to be under age 18

  • There are an estimated 900,000 parents of illegal aliens under age 18 who qualify. It is unclear whether the government would deport these parents.

  • The DREAM Act is also unclear as to what will happen to the siblings of legalized illegals who are themselves illegal, but do not meet the Act’s requirements. There are an estimated 500,000 of these siblings.

  • The DREAM Act also allows illegal aliens ages 18 to 29 to legalize if they claim to have arrived prior to age 16. We estimate 1.3 million meet this requirement. There are a total of 4.4 million illegal aliens in this age group.

  • Thus the total number of potential amnesty beneficiaries is 2.1 million (assuming no fraud). This does not include 1.4 million siblings and parents of qualifying illegals who may end up receiving a de facto amnesty.

  • Prior legalization programs have been plagued by fraud. One-fourth (700,000) of those legalized in the 1986 amnesty are estimated to have done so fraudulently.

  • Given the difficultly in determining whether an applicant meets the DREAM Act’s amnesty requirements, coupled with the overworked nature of the immigration bureaucracy, fraud could be a significant problem.

Methodology: These estimates are based on a Center for Immigration Studies analysis of the March 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS) collected by the Census Bureau. No estimate is definitive, of course, but the Urban Institute, the Pew Hispanic Center, and the INS have all used the March CPS to estimate the size of the illegal population. We estimated that the survey included more than 11 million illegals in 2007. This is entirely consistent with prior research. The above numbers do NOT include those illegal aliens missed by the Census Bureau’s survey. The Department of Homeland Security and other researchers have estimated that 10 percent of illegals are likely missed in Census Bureau surveys of this kind. Thus, the actual number of potential beneficiaries is almost certainly higher than the numbers discussed above.

We use the demographic characteristics of respondents to distinguish legal and illegal immigrants in the survey. We combine this with the estimated number of legal immigrants in the country. This method is based on some very well-established facts about the characteristics of the legal and illegal population and is consistent with other research that employs the same approach to estimate the illegal population.

# # #

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institute which examines the impact of immigration on the United States.