That would be 5% of the US workforce. If it’s true, it’s mostly thanks to policies that he and President Bush supported, or it’s because of malignant neglect of US immigration law going back decades, but accelerated on Bush’s watch.

Rove, in a select public appearance, told the crowd of more than 150 gathered at the University of Texas at Tyler on Tuesday that 1 of every 20 workers in the United States is here illegally.

Not from crossing over the Mexican border, he said.

From flying in from another country with a legal visa and overstaying it, he said.

“If you are an illegal alien, you are more likely to be working than if you are a legal U.S. citizen,” Rove said. “People are scared to death that America isn’t going to be American.”

This will require some unpacking. Of the estimate 12 to 20 million illegal aliens currently in the US, NumbersUSA estimates that 69% are Mexican. Did they come to the US by airplane and overstay a legal visa, or did they just walk across the unsecured border without any visa at all, and then obtain fraudulent documents or steal the identities of US citizens and legal immigrants? Regarding Rove’s last quote, that fear is based on the fact that assimilation is no longer asked of immigrants.

Rove wasn’t alone in stumping for illegal aliens. Texas employers and other pols joined in.

“I hear people say we should send those people back to where they came from,” said [Larry] Durrett, president of Jacksonville-based Southern Multifoods and owner of about 30 Taco Bells and KFC restaurants in Fort Worth.

“We can’t. We’d shut down.”

Durrett and others — including former White House adviser Karl Rove and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas — spoke Tuesday about the need to fix what many call a “broken” immigration system during a Texas Employers for Immigration Reform summit in Tyler.

Many said they hope that any solution will allow workers from other countries to stay here to help meet U.S. work-force needs.

This is the Wall Street Journal side of the open borders debate, which discounts security arguments in favor of keeping the flow of illegals coming to keep wages depressed. Our side has the numbers, but their side is armed with clout and dollars.

Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond said he believes that three components are crucial to a comprehensive immigration plan:

Border security, which includes allowing enough legal immigrants into Texas to meet the state’s work force needs.

Allowing immigrants already working in the United States to “come out of the shadows” and work here legally.

Creating a new program to help employers easily determine which workers are legally working in the United States, so they don’t have to serve as immigration police.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to the future economy of Texas,” Hammond said. “We are calling on Congress today.”

Caught between the voters’ numbers and big business’ dollars, what’s a poor politician to do?

[Senator John] Cornyn said finding a solution is “a matter of tremendous national importance.”

But he said Congress must have something to go on, to show the direction a majority of U.S. citizens would like the government to follow.

You need something to go on, Senator? How about this?

In Iowa, eighty-six percent of Republicans described immigration as a very or somewhat serious problem facing the country; fifty-nine percent of Democrats said the same thing. The New York Times/CBS News poll PDF; November 2-12, 2007

Sixty-three percent of likely American voters believe illegal immigration is a major problem. McLaughlin & Associates poll; April 12-15, 2007

Seventy-four percent of likely American voters agree with the following statement: “We have to stop the flow of illegals before we address what to do about those who already are here.” McLaughlin & Associates poll; April 12-15, 2007

Fifty-nine percent of Americans polled believe the more effective way to deal with the potential treat to national security posed by millions of illegal immigrants living within the United States is to crack down on illegal immigration by toughening the enforcement of existing laws, deporting illegal immigrants and prosecuting the employers who illegally employ workers.
UPI/Zogby Poll; April 13-16, 2007

Fifty-three percent of California voters favor a policy of rounding-up and deporting illegal aliens.
Field Poll PDF; March 20-31, 2007

Most California voters continue to consider illegal immigration a serious problem, with forty-nine percent rating it very serious and twenty-eight percent somewhat serious.
Field Poll PDF; March 20-31, 2007

Fifty-four percent of Americans polled believe illegal aliens harm the nation’s economy.
Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll; April 5-9, 2007

There’s more where that came from, with links provided for each data point.