The illegal immigrants, by whatever name or label they’re called, keep on coming. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York scoffed that “America was never all that great.” He took it back only after he was inundated by several days of outrage and by the thousands who arrive every day having argued with him with their sore feet.

Lonely singles and entire families make the grueling journey from the miserable lands they leave behind. It was ever thus. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 9,258 illegal-immigrant families were detained by U.S. agents along the southwest U.S.-Mexican border in July, down a trifle from the 9,434 detained in June and 9,485 detained in May.

But those are mere guesses, some more educated than others. No one knows for sure what the accurate number would be. The arrest tallies raise a serious question that needs not only to be asked, but to be answered. Public policy on immigration, legal and otherwise, must be based facts, not guesses. The figure most often cited and widely accepted is that there are 11 million or a little more illegal aliens now residing in the 50 states. The 11 million or slightly more figure was arrived at through analysis by demographers at the Pew Research Center, extrapolating from estimates of two U.S. Census Bureau surveys, the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.

Both surveys ask respondents where they were born and whether they’re citizens but not whether they’re here legally. Pew refers to the illegals not as “illegal” or even “undocumented,” but as “unauthorized.” Pew calculates that the 11 million figure has been unchanged since 2007. The nonpartisan Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) rightly cautions that the accuracy of any head count of illegals is compromised, “given that illegal aliens have a motive to lie about their immigration status, in order to avoid discovery.” No one keeps track of the “out migration,” not even of the liberals who loudly promised to leave the country if Donald Trump were elected. The numbers of those having fled the Donald are believed to be small.

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The Washington Post reported earlier this month that “more families with children have arrived in the first 10 months of fiscal 2018 than during any year under [President Obama.]” If so, how can that 11 million figure not be higher now, likely much higher? One estimate even puts the number of illegal aliens at 30 million. Shouldn’t any discussion of illegal immigration (and what is to be done about it) at least start with a full grasp of the true extent of the problem — not just the number, but the costs that having millions of illegal immigrants here impose on the country?

FAIR, which estimates the number of illegals in the country somewhat higher at 12.5 million, cites the “severely negative impact on the nation’s taxpayers at the local, state, and national levels.” Last September, FAIR estimated the collective cost to taxpayers of illegal immigration to be about $117 billion annually. That figure, which aggregates the costs of public education, health care, criminal justice enforcement, and other public services, was about $3 billion a year higher than a 2013 estimate.

“Illegal aliens are net consumers of taxpayer-funded services,” the FAIR survey says, “and the limited taxes paid by some segments of the illegal-alien population are in no way significant enough to offset the growing financial burdens imposed on U.S. taxpayers by massive numbers of uninvited guests.”

Liberal and Democratic partisans regard illegal immigrants as “undocumented Democrats,” and have little interest in getting a correct number of the illegals here. Many of the loudest among these partisans want a unilateral surrender on illegal immigration, first by abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They prefer not finding out how many are actually here, but the more the better. If the true number were known it would strengthen the case for building President Trump’s “big, beautiful wall,” and for mandating E-Verify for all employers.

The Democrats want more, not less, illegal immigration, judging by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s remarks in El Paso, Texas 10 days ago, urging Democrats to return the party to the majority in the November midterms by providing what she called “leverage” for those trying to crash the border. The 11 million illegals — or 20 million or 30 million or whatever the real number is — are not enough. Another question Mrs. Pelosi and her party don’t want to answer is, How many is enough? How many is too many?

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