Since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly since Donald Trump became a candidate, a lot of attention has been paid to immigration policy in the United States. Because presidential campaigns can sometimes (most of the time) use statistics and figures in an interesting fashion, we thought we should provide some information about immigration in the United States, particularly when it comes to undocumented immigrants.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign born population in the United States is around 40 million, or 13% of the entire U.S. population. Over 17 million of those foreign born are naturalized citizens, while the remainder are not. This 40 million number includes individuals that are undocumented and without status. Of the 159 million Americans in the workforce, 17% or 23 million are foreign born, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States is a number that is often difficult to calculate and varies from source to source. This number includes people that entered the United States without inspection as well as individuals that overstayed a temporary visa and therefore no longer have status. According to Pew Research, an organization that dedicates an entire portion of its studies to immigrant statistics, the unauthorized immigrant population is estimated to be around 11.3 million people. Pew goes on to state that this number has been pretty stable for the last five years and has actually gone down from its peak in 2007. 5% of the total U.S. workforce is made up of unauthorized immigrants.
Of the 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, Pew Research estimates that 5.9 million of them are immigrants from Mexico. While most people focus on unauthorized immigration from Mexico into the United States, Pew points out that the number of undocumented Mexicans living in the U.S. has declined by nearly 1.0 million since its peak in 2007. In fact, Customs and Border Protection data shows that in 2014, more than half of all border apprehensions were from immigrants not of Mexican decent. Additionally, as our previous blog pointed out, both China and India this year have surpassed Mexico as the top two countries to send immigrants to the United States.
Additionally, there has been much debate over the means in which an unauthorized immigrant arrived in the United States, either through overstaying their visa or through an illegal border crossing. The most recent and comprehensive study on the subject was done by Pew Research and it estimates that as much as 45% of the 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States may have simply overstayed their visa.
To summarize, statistics can be used to say a lot of different things, depending on how they are used. When it comes to the immigrant population in the United States, there is a very complicated picture that can be drawn. It is important to point out that a lot of statistics on immigrants in the United States are simply estimates taken from studies and surveys. Information is difficult to obtain about immigrants, particularly if they are in the country without status, because of their fear of deportation and reluctance to talk to outsiders. One should always be cautious whenever a politician, or anybody for that matter, throws out an isolated immigration statistic without attempting to paint the bigger picture.