Republican presidential hopeful and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio paints himself as the most informed and realistic candidate when it comes to immigration reform. He spent months helping draft a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, and has spent even longer defending it.
So it seems like he should be especially aware of how many undocumented immigrants are in the U.S. -- and the fact that the number has leveled off or even decreased in recent years.
Rubio said the opposite Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We are worse off today than we were five years ago," he told host Chuck Todd. "We have more illegal immigrants here."
Rubio wasn't pressed on where he got that information. HuffPost contacted two spokesmen for Rubio on Sunday and again Monday to see if the senator had a source for his claim that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has risen in recent years, but neither of them replied.
What he said doesn't square with most reputable studies. Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, estimated last year that there were 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2014, and that the "population has remained essentially stable for five years." The number peaked in 2007 with 12.2 million undocumented immigrants, according to Pew estimates.
Center for Migration Studies, another think tank, released a report based on Census figures this month estimating there were 10.9 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of 2014 -- the smallest the population has been since 2003. The number has been on the decline since 2008, according to the Center for Migration Studies.
"The facts of the report tell a different story than what you might hear on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress, where many send a message that we’re being overrun by undocumented immigrants," Kevin Appleby, the center’s senior director of international migration policy, said of the report, according to The Washington Post. "The facts and the data show that’s just not true. Hopefully, political discourse will be more fact-based going forward."
There is no exact count of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., leading some people to dismiss the idea that the figure can be estimated at all. But a number of experts have done so using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. And they are largely consistent across different organizations: The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration numbers, has estimated there were between 11 and 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country as of 2012. In its most recent report, the Department of Homeland Security similarly estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants for 2012.
Rubio has been saying for years that there are 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- he used that figure in 2013, the year the Senate passed its comprehensive reform bill, and has cited it during the current campaign.
Other Republicans have also said the undocumented population is larger than it is, although with more specifics. Front-runner Donald Trump said last year that there were more than 30 million people living in the U.S. without authorization -- a claim for which Politifact found no basis, other than statements from conservative columnist Ann Coulter.