More than one million foreigners illegally entered the United States in 2014 and 2015, according to a new study. And stayed.
The report estimates that about 1.1 million, or roughly a third, of the foreign arrivals in 2014-15 came illegally.
The study, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau, estimated that two million people came to the United States legally — and 1.1 million illegally — in 2014 and 2015. That sets a new 15-year high and is an increase of 39 percent over 2013. The latest figure is up from the 2.3 million immigrants who arrived in 2012 and 2013. The last two-year period to exceed 2014-15 was in 2000 and 2001, when 3.18 million foreigners came.
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Steven Camarota, who wrote the report, attributed the renewed surge to a combination of an improved economy that is drawing additional workers, as well as lax border enforcement by the Obama administration.
The study highlights the changing face of immigration. In 2004 and 2005, more than 1 million Mexicans immigrated, about 37 percent of the total and the largest share of any region. Since then, though, immigration from Mexico dropped precipitously. During the most recent two-year period, it was 338,000. That is up from a low of 256,000 in 2010 and 2011, but it has been overtaken by the rest of Latin America and Asia.
“It looks like [immigration from Mexico] rebounded, but that’s not the story,” Camarota said. “The story is the huge growth in immigration from Central America and other countries.”
The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey estimated that in the first three months of this year, the foreign-born population living in the United States is 43 million. Already a numerical record, the agency projects the percentage of U.S. residents who were born in another country to reach an all-time high by 2023.
[lz_table title=”Immigration (Legal & Illegal)” source=”Center for Immigration Studies”]Period,Estimate
“We are well on our way to hitting that, and perhaps hitting it sooner,” Camarota said.
The report estimates that about 1.1 million, or roughly a third, of the foreign arrivals in 2014-15 came illegally. That is up 4.7 percent from the 2012-13 period. Those illegal immigrants came by sneaking across the border, overstaying visas, or receiving temporarily release after a short stint in a detention facility. It does not reflect the net increase in illegal immigration.
Estimating illegal immigration totals is tricky because the Census Bureau does not ask the legal status of people who take the agency’s surveys, and illegal immigrants tend to avoid the surveys altogether. But Camarota said data from other sources, such as the number of green cards awarded or the number of visas issued by the State Department, confirm that legal immigration cannot entirely explain the increase in overall immigration reflected by the census figures.
“I can say with lots of confidence, ‘Wow, immigration overall is way up, and it can’t all be legal immigration,’” he said. “It doesn’t look like it’s anywhere near big enough to account for this surge.”
Camarota said better economic conditions and changing demographics in Mexico are likely responsible for the decrease in immigrants from that country. But the statistics make clear that the rest of Latin America is filling the void. Immigration also is up from Asia, and the arrivals from those countries more often tend to come legally. But he said a fair number who enter with permission — such as on a student visa — end up remaining illegally.
Camarota said it is impossible to predict if immigration will increase at the current pace.
“We don’t know. There’s no way to know,” he said. “What I can say is, it doesn’t look like it’s going to go back to the 2010 to 2013 levels anytime soon.”