The Census Bureau’s questionnaires are in millions of homes right now, but are they in every home? No. And will they reflect honestly the number of persons living in each household? No. They will miss approximately 6 percent to 8 percent of families residing in the United States who are here illegally, but who refuse to be counted. In 2000 the final return mail was only 78.4 percent, even after Census Bureau people went door to door to query those who hadn’t responded. The 2000 census undercounted 12 million illegal aliens.

Missy DeYoung

Missy DeYoung

There is no exact count of illegal aliens in the United States. Discrepancies abound. The Census Bureau says there are 10.8 million. An economic calculation by Bear Sterns reported in 2006 that the count was 20 million. The Border Patrol union based its estimate of between 12 million and 15 million on border apprehensions at 1.1 million a year, versus those who got across without being caught — a 3-to-1 ratio. The Pew Hispanic Center stated, in 2005, “that unauthorized migrants to the United States number between11.5 (million and) 12 million” and a 2004 Time magazine investigative report based on border apprehensions estimated that “the number of illegal immigrants flooding into the United States in 2004 alone would total 3 million.” And there is still a feeling of an undercount by population and immigration groups who deal daily with the problem. Other experts estimate that number to be between 20 million and 30 million.

So why should we just accept the Census Bureau count on which congressional representation is based? The Homeland Security Department has 22 federal agencies, among them are ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), which has the distinction of being one of the most dysfunctional agencies in the federal government. And it is costing us $14.5 billion to fund a census count this year when the count will likely be inaccurate and not representative of our actual population. And illegal immigrants are still coming over our borders and through our airports with falsified documents like fake passports and visas. And then there are foreign students and visitors who overstay past the time when they had agreed to go home, as well as terrorists with many bogus identities.

The only means of correcting this unreliable counting system is by federal legislation, strengthening enforcement and reforming our antiquated immigration policy. Also helpful would be a national identity card of the kind carried by citizens and workers in other parts of the world.

But at present, there is little to safeguard the accuracy of the census count. The Census Bureau worker who rings the doorbell of a small two-bedroom house won’t find the 10 families who actually live there. They don’t exist as far as the person answering the door is concerned and are actually ghosts as far as the census is concerned. Nor does that census worker interview the owner of the rental who has found his property overused and abused by too many unauthorized occupants. When the many families leave to rent another house, those extra uncounted people still remain unknown and unknowable.

— Marilyn Brant Chandler “Missy” DeYoung is board chairwoman of Californians for Population Stabilization and can be reached at