Detailed new statistics from the Census Bureau demonstrate unequivocally that immigration — both legal and illegal — is rising faster after slowing earlier in the decade.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which favors lower levels of immigration, estimated in a report released Tuesday that more than 3 million foreigners moved to the United States in 2014 and 2015. The think tank in June used the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey to estimate that immigration is increasing. Tuesday’s report used a far larger sample in the American Community Survey to confirm that conclusion.
“We are now certain that immigration surged in 2015.”
“We are now certain that immigration surged in 2015,” said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies.
The total foreign-born population in the United States in 2015, 43.3 million, was an all-time high. At 13.5 percent, immigrants now make up the largest share of the population in 105 years. It will be a record as a share of the population in seven years under current Census Bureau projections.
That data show that almost 1.5 million new immigrants came legally and illegally in 2014, up 17 percent from the year before. In the first six months of 2015, another 914,000 came. If the pace held for the second half of the year — figures are not yet available — that means that nearly 1.6 million came. It would be the most arrivals in a single year since 2000, when 1.66 million people came.
Immigration had begun to level off. In 2011, only 1.08 million people moved to the country, the smallest number in years. But the 1.9 million increase in just the last two years is almost as much as the 2 million increase that occurred from 2009 to 2013.
“One is the [improved] economy,” Camarota said in speculating on the reasons that immigration has picked up. “One is procedural changes that the Obama administration made … And illegal immigration also is part of this.”
|New arrivals (legal and illegal)|
|*projection based on first 6 months|
The new report comes a day after Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) warned that illegal immigration is overwhelming America’s border patrol officers.
The illegal immigrant population actually started to shrink after 2009 as more left than came each year. But it appears that the illegal immigrant population is again rising as arrivals outpace departures The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that between a quarter and a third of the 1.5 million newcomers in 2014 were illegal immigrants, which translates to 375,000 to 500,000 people. Each year, Camarota said, about 50,000 illegal immigrants die, 150,000 return home, and some 100,000 attain legal status.
The rest of the foreign arrivals legally settled permanently or came on one of the many guest worker programs, student visas, or other programs.
Camarota said the Obama administration has made it easier for the spouses of guest workers to get work permits in the United States, which has helped to boost the number of foreigners. As part of a budget deal with the Obama administration last year, Congress also changed the rules on non-agricultural seasonal workers. Now, guest workers on those visas who come back the next year do not count against the cap.
As with past estimates, the new report shows the changing face of immigration as the share of immigrants from Mexico has dropped, while the percentage from East and South Asia has grown. In 2014, 11.6 percent of immigrants were from Mexico, down from 35 percent in 2004. People from South and East Asia grew from 24.1 percent in 2004 to 38 percent in 2014.
Fueled by a surge of unaccompanied minors, immigration from non-Mexican Latin America also in the rise, growing from 18.7 percent of immigrants in 2011 to 23 percent in 2014.
In 2015, 22.1 million people from Mexico and other Latin American countries were living in the United States, up 10 percent from 2010. The number of people from predominantly Muslim countries in 2015 was much smaller at 2.7 million, but was growing much faster — up 24 percent since 2010.
States with the fastest-growing immigrant populations since 2010 are not those normally associated with immigration. North Dakota led the pack, with a growth rate of 72.2 percent, followed by Wyoming (up 38.9 percent), West Virginia (up 31.1 percent), South Dakota (up 25.2 percent), and Delaware (up 21.8 percent).
California has the highest share of immigrants at 27.3 percent, followed by New York (22.9 percent), New Jersey (22.1 percent), Florida (20.2 percent), and Nevada (19.3 percent).
At least one in 10 people is an immigrant in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
The fact that immigration is approaching records territory could have political implications. Republican Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal border crossings and reforming legal immigration central to his presidential campaign.
“Every year since 2011, we’ve had a big increase,” Camarota said. “Maybe one of the reasons why Trump’s message is resonating is people see with their own eyes the increase in the foreign-born population.”