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A mass of data about immigrants in the U.S.

the Migration Information Institute issued this FAQ document last year, in October 2007. It is extensive. Go through all of it to find what you are looking for. It covers demographics, workforce and geographic distribution, countries of origin, unionization,
immigration status, deportations, naturalization, etc.

Its website has a motherlode of studies about immigration.

By Aaron Terrazas, Jeanne Batalova, Velma Fan, of the Migration Policy Institute


QUESTION: How many immigrants are in the United States today?

According to the US Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, there were 37,547,789 foreign born in the United States, which represents 12.5 percent of the total US population.

QUESTION: What are the historical numbers and shares of immigrants in the United States?

Data on the nativity of the US population was first collected in the 1850 decennial census. That year, there were 2.2 million foreign born in the United States, 9.7 percent of the total population.

Between 1860 and 1920, the foreign born as a percentage of the total population fluctuated between 13 and 15 percent, peaking at 14.8 percent in 1890 mainly due to European immigration. By 1930, the share had dropped to 11.6 percent (14.2 million).

The share of foreign born in the US population continued to decline between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of 4.7 percent in 1970 (9.6 million individuals). However, since 1970, the percentage has risen rapidly, mainly due to large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia.

In 1980, according to the US Census Bureau, the foreign born represented 6.2 percent of the total US population (14.1 million individuals). By 1990, their share had risen to 7.9 percent (19.8 million individuals) and, by the 2000 census, they made up 11.1 percent (31.1 million individuals) of the total US population.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND DEMOGRAPHICS (also see section of Mexicans, below)

QUESTION: What were the top source countries with the largest share of immigrants in 2006 compared with those in 1960?

Mexico-born immigrants accounted for 30.7 percent of all foreign born residing in the United States in 2006, by far the largest immigrant group in the United States.

Among the remaining countries of origin, the Philippines accounted for 4.4 percent of all foreign born, followed by China (excluding Taiwan) and India with 4.1 percent and 4.0 percent of all foreign born, respectively.

These four countries — together with Vietnam (3 percent), El Salvador (2.8 percent), Korea (2.7 percent), Cuba (2.5 percent), Canada (2.3 percent), and the United Kingdom (1.8 percent) — made up 58.4 percent of all foreign born residing in the United States in 2006.

The predominance of foreign born from Mexico and Asian countries in the early 21st century starkly contrasts with the foreign born from mostly European countries in 1960. Italian-born immigrants made up 13.0 percent of all foreign born in 1960, followed by those born in Germany and Canada (accounting for 10.2 and 9.8 percent, respectively). Unlike in 2006, no single country accounted for more than 15 percent of the total immigrant population in 1960.

QUESTION: How many immigrants have come to the United States since 2000?

Of the 37.5 million foreign born in the United States in 2006, 44.1 percent entered the country prior to 1990, 30.5 percent between 1990 and 1999, and 25.3 percent in 2000 or later.

QUESTION: What is the racial composition of immigrants?

Of the foreign born in the United States in 2006, 45.3 percent reported their race as white alone, 7.8 percent as black or African American alone, 23.4 percent as Asian alone, and 21.6 percent as some other race; 1.2 percent reported having two or more races.

QUESTION: How many immigrants are of Hispanic origin?

In 2006, 47.2 percent of the foreign born reported Hispanic or Latino origins.

QUESTION: What percentage of the foreign born are limited English proficient (LEP)?

In 2006, 52.4 percent of the 37.2 million foreign-born persons age 5 and older were LEP, compared with 51.0 percent of 30.7 million in 2000. Note: Those who reported speaking English less than “very well” are considered LEP.

QUESTION: What percentage of the foreign-born population is college educated?

In 2006, there were 30.9 million foreign born age 25 and older. Of those, 26.7 percent had a bachelor's or higher degree, while 32.0 percent lacked a high school diploma. Among native-born adults age 25 and older, 27.0 percent of 165 million were college graduates and only 12.9 percent did not have a high school diploma.


QUESTION: What share do the foreign born compose of the total US civilian labor force?

In 2006, of the 151.1 million workers engaged in the US civilian labor force, the foreign born accounted for 15.6 percent (23.6 million). Between 1970 and 2006, the percentage of foreign-born workers in the US civilian labor force nearly tripled, from 5.3 to 15.6 percent. Over the same period, the percent of foreign born in the total population grew from 4.8 to 12.5 percent.

What kinds of jobs do the employed foreign born have?

Of the 22.2 million civilian employed foreign born age 16 and older in 2006, 27.2 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 22.5 percent in service occupations; 18.3 percent in sales and office occupations; 16.7 percent in production and transportation; and 13.5 percent in construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair occupations.

How many foreign-born workers are union members?

According to the 2006 Current Population Survey (CPS), there were 19.7 million employed foreign-born wage and salary workers age 16 and older. Of those, 1.9 million (8.5 percent) were members of labor unions.

What share of all union members is foreign born?

The percentage of foreign born among union members has increased from 8.9 percent in 1996 to 12.3 percent in 2006.


What are the top five states in terms of the number of foreign born, share of foreign born in the total state population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2006?

In 2006, the top five US states by the number of foreign born were California (9,902,067), New York (4,178,962), Texas (3,740,667), Florida (3,425,634), and Illinois (1,773,600).

When classified by the share of foreign born in the total state population, the top five states in 2006 were California (27.2 percent), New York (21.6 percent), New Jersey (20.1 percent), Nevada (19.1 percent), and Florida (18.9 percent).

Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the foreign-born population were California (2,482,565), Texas (1,390,505), New York (1,049,862), Florida (1,010,243), Illinois (591,596), and New Jersey (512,865).

Between 2000 and 2006, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the foreign-born population were California (1,037,812), Texas (841,025), Florida (754,806), New York (310,829), and Georgia (282,317).

Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were North Carolina (288.2 percent), Georgia (247.5 percent), Nevada (206.4 percent), Arkansas (198.5 percent), and Nebraska (183.0 percent).

However, between 2000 and 2006, the five states with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were Delaware (53.1 percent), South Carolina (51.8 percent), Nevada (50.3 percent), Georgia (48.9 percent), and Tennessee (48.7 percent).

What are the top-10 US counties in terms of number of foreign born, share of foreign born in the total county population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 2000 and 2006?

In 2006, the top-10 counties by the number of foreign born (in thousands) were Los Angeles County, California (3,517); Miami-Dade County, Florida (1,209); Cook County, Illinois (1,119); Queens County, New York (1,094); Harris County, Texas (956); Kings County, New York (949); Orange County, California (915); San Diego County, California (686); Maricopa County, Arizona (656); and Santa Clara County, California (631).

When classified by the share of foreign born in the total state population, the top-10 counties in 2006 were Miami-Dade County, Florida (50.3 percent); Queens County, New York (48.5 percent); Hudson County, New Jersey (40.5 percent); Kings County, New York (37.8 percent); Santa Clara County, California (36.4 percent); San Francisco County, California (36.3 percent); Los Angeles County, California (35.4 percent); Imperial County, California (32.6 percent); San Mateo County, California (32.1 percent); and Bronx County, New York (31.8 percent).

Between 2000 and 2006, the 10 counties with the largest absolute growth (in thousands) of the foreign-born population were Maricopa County, Arizona (215); Harris County, Texas (200); Riverside County, California (174); Clark County, Nevada (139); Broward County, Florida (125); San Bernardino County, California (112); Dallas County, Texas (111); King County, Washington (95); Gwinnett County, Georgia (86); and Palm Beach County, Florida (83).

Between 2000 and 2006, the 10 counties with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were St. Clair County, Alabama (421.5 percent); Wright County, Minnesota (302.1 percent); St. Croix County, Wisconsin (235.5 percent); Henry County, Georgia (234.1 percent); Frederick County, Virginia (208.5 percent); Forsyth County, Georgia (203.1 percent); Kendall County, Illinois (201.9 percent); Scott County, Minnesota (199.2 percent); Loudon County, Virginia (194.9 percent); and St. Landry Parish, Louisiana (194.5 percent).

Note: The above county-level data are from the 2006 estimates of the American Community Survey, which, for confidentiality reasons, reports information only for 782 out of 3,141 US counties. It is possible that the county rankings would be different if information on all counties were available.


How many permanent immigrants (in all categories) came to the United States in 2006, and where are they from?

In 2006, 1,266,264 foreign nationals obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status according to the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006. The total number represents a 12.8 percent increase from 2005 (1,122,373), and a 50.6 percent increase from 2000 (841,002).

Of the nearly 1.3 million new LPRs, 45.8 percent were an immediate relative of a US citizen, 17.5 percent came through a family-sponsored preference, and 12.6 percent through an employment-based preference. Another 17.1 percent adjusted from a refugee or asylee status, and 3.5 percent were diversity-lottery winners.

Disaggregated by country of birth, 13.7 percent came from Mexico. The top five countries of birth — Mexico, China, the Philippines, India, and Cuba — accounted for 35.0 percent of all persons who received LPR status in 2006.

Nationals of the next five countries — Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Vietnam, and Jamaica — made up another 13.3 percent of all LPRs, so that the top-10 countries of birth made up almost 50 percent of the total.

What was the total number of nonimmigrant admissions to the United States in 2006?

Temporary admissions of nonimmigrants to the United States increased by 3.5 times, from 9.5 million in 1985 to 33.7 million (not including certain Mexicans and Canadians) in 2006.

Note: Nonimmigrant admissions represent the number of arrivals, not the number of individuals, admitted to the United States.

Similar to the past, temporary visitors accounted for an overwhelming majority of all arrivals. In 2006, they represented 89 percent (29.9 million) of all admissions to the United States. Of those, 24.8 million were tourist admissions and 5.0 million were business-traveler admissions.

Temporary workers and trainees, including H-1B "specialty occupation" workers, registered nurses, temporary agricultural workers, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional workers, treaty traders, and intracompany transferees, among others, accounted for 1,709,953 arrivals (5.1 percent of total admissions); this figure includes spouses and children of temporary workers.

Students who came to study at an academic or vocational institute, together with their family members, made up 3.5 percent (1,168,020) of total admissions.

How many foreign nationals came on nonimmigrant visas in 2006?

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in 2006, 25.8 million foreign nationals entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas. Of those, 4.4 million entered the United States more than once. These numbers, however, exclude the majority of short-term visitors from Canada and Mexico.

DHS does not provide a breakdown of the 25.8 million nonimmigrants by the type of admission visa under which they came.

How many visas did the Department of State issue in 2006?

The US Department of State (DOS) reports the number of visas issued to foreign nationals who wish to come to the United States for the purposes of traveling, conducting business, working, studying, and other reasons.

In 2006, DOS issued 5,836,718 nonimmigrant visas. The majority (52.3 percent) were temporary business and tourist visas (B-1 and B-2 visas), followed by J-1 exchange visitors (5.3 percent), and F-1 and F-2 academic student and family of academic student visas (5.0 percent).

Disaggregated by region of origin, the majority of temporary visas were issued in 2006 to foreigners from Asia (38.4 percent) and North America (23.0 percent), followed by Europe (18.4 percent), South America (14.9 percent), Africa (4.4 percent), and Oceania (0.8 percent).

Note: The number of visas issued does not necessarily match the number of foreign nationals who came to the United States in the same year.

How many foreign born came as refugees and asylees?

In 2006, 41,150 individuals were admitted to the United States as refugees. This figure represented a 23.4 percent decrease compared to the number of admissions in 2005 (53,738). Of the refugees admitted in 2006, 25.2 percent were from Somalia, 14.6 percent from Russia, and 7.6 percent from Cuba.

The number of foreign born who were granted asylum in 2006 was 26,113. This represented a 3.7 percent increase compared to the number of admissions in 2005 (25,160). The top three countries of origin for persons granted asylum in 2006 were China (21.3 percent), Haiti (11.5 percent), and Colombia (11.4 percent). These countries accounted for the origins of nearly half of all asylees.


(Editor's note: For more information on Mexican immigrants, see the Spotlight on Mexican Immigrants in the United States, published in April 2008.)

From which areas/regions do Mexican migrants residing in the United States come?

The Mexican National Population Council (Consejo Nacional de Población, CONAPO), tracks the number of Mexican-born US residents according to their state of birth in Mexico.

In 2003, one-third of migrants to the United States from Mexico originated from just three states: Jalisco (13.7 percent), Michoacan (10.7 percent), and Guanajuato (9.3 percent) (see Map 2). In 1990, these three states accounted for 34.7 percent of Mexican migrants to the United States (16.8 percent from Jalisco, 10.5 percent from Michoacan, and 7.4 percent from Guanajuato).

In which US states do the Mexican born tend to live?

In 2006, there were 11.5 million foreign born from Mexico residing in the United States. These immigrants were overwhelmingly concentrated in the West and Southwest (see Map 3).

In New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Idaho, the Mexican born represented 72.8, 65.5, 62.5, and 57.6 percent of each state's foreign-born population, respectively.

By contrast, Mexican-born individuals accounted for only 1.4 percent of the foreign-born population of Hawaii and less than 1 percent of Vermont's foreign-born population.

How many Mexican-born workers are in the US labor force?

According to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute, 9.4 percent of all persons born in Mexico lived in the United States in 2005. In the same year, 14 percent of all Mexican workers were engaged in the US labor force, as compared to 2.5 percent of all Canadian workers.


How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States (adults, children, mixed-status families)?

In January 2006, there were approximately 29.1 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States who entered the country between 1980 and 2005. About 16.3 million (56 percent) of them were legally resident (including lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees), about 1.3 million (4 percent) had temporary or other immigrant status, and approximately 11.6 million (40 percent) were unauthorized. The unauthorized population was estimated to be growing at 515,000 people per year in 2006.

Approximately 6.6 million of the unauthorized in January 2006 were from Mexico (57 percent), 510,000 were from El Salvador (4 percent), 430,000 were from Guatemala (4 percent), 280,000 were from the Philippines (2 percent), and 280,000 were from Honduras (2 percent).

In terms of the highest rates of unauthorized population growth between 2000 and 2006, India is first (125 percent), followed by Brazil (110 percent) and Honduras (75 percent).

How many people were apprehended or deported in 2005?

The total number of alien apprehensions reported by the US Department of Homeland Security steadily increased during the 1990s, from 1,169,939 apprehensions in 1990 to 1,814,729 apprehensions in 2000. In 2003, the number of apprehensions had declined to 1,046,422 before climbing again slightly to 1,291,142 in 2005.

Note: Apprehensions are events, not individuals. In other words, the same individual can be apprehended more than once.

The total number of aliens deported follows a similar trend, rising from 1,052,572 in 1990 to 1,862,218 in 2000 before declining to 1,078,265 in 2003 and rising again to 1,174,059 in 2005. However, the number of formal removals (forced deportations) rose throughout the period, from 30,039 in 1990 to 208,521 in 2005.

By contrast, voluntary departures declined over the period, from 1,022,533 in 1990 to 965,538 in 2005.


How much does the government spend on immigration control and enforcement?

Between 1986 and 2002, funding for the US Border Patrol, then part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the Department of Justice, increased 519 percent, from $268 million in 1986 to $1.6 billion in 2002. The Border Patrol is responsible for enforcing 8,000 miles of US land and water boundaries between legal ports of entry (designated points where immigration officials can regulate entry).

Following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, the Border Patrol became part of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service within DHS. In 2005, the total budget for CBP was $5.3 billion. CBP is responsible for regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, enforcing US trade laws, apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband, protecting US agricultural and economic interests from pests and diseases, and protecting American businesses from intellectual property theft.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the investigative branch of DHS and is responsible for the enforcement of US immigration law. Between 2003 and 2006, ICE's budget grew 53 percent to $3.6 billion.

More recently, in February 2007, President Bush requested about $13 billion for border controls and internal enforcement of immigration laws in fiscal year (FY) 2008. This represents an approximately $3 billion increase from FY 2007.


How many foreign born are naturalized citizens?

Of the 37.5 million foreign born in the United States in 2006, 15.7 million (41.9 percent) were naturalized citizens, according to 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates.

In 2006, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalized 702,589 lawful permanent residents, or about 1.8 percent of the total foreign-born population.

From a historical perspective, the number of naturalizations increased dramatically between 1976 and 2000. From 1976 to 1980, 846,218 foreign-born individuals naturalized as US citizens according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006.

By contrast, between 1996 and 2000, 3,834,706 foreign-born individuals naturalized as US citizens, partially due to the number of permanent residents who became eligible for naturalization after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave them lawful permanent resident status. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of naturalizations totaled 3,489,137.


How many visa applications for permanent immigration (green cards) and naturalization applications are backlogged?

Two types of backlogs impact immigrant admissions (i.e., issuance of green cards). The first is due to visa availability. For example, the government caps employment-based visas for foreign workers and their families at 140,000 per year. Also, no country can receive more than 7 percent of the total number of annual worldwide visas (approximately 25,600 visas).

The second type is due to processing delays of applicants' documents, which is related to the government's lack of financial and human resources as well as increased scrutiny.

Once the State Department grants a visa to an immigrant, US Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) conducts background checks.

As of October 2007, USCIS was processing some family-related visa applications filed as far back as 1985, and it was still processing some employment-related visa applications from 2001.

How many naturalization applications are backlogged?

As of September 2005, USCIS reported a backlog of 2.6 million naturalization applications.

However, in September 2006, USCIS announced it had eliminated the backlog of naturalization applications as the average processing time for a naturalization application fell from a peak of 14 months in February 2004 to five months. A processing time of under six months is considered normal.

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