Each year many immigrants come to live in the US. Some come to the country via legal means, hoping to eventually become US citizens, and others arrive to stay illegally. Those who immigrate illegally are most often escaping from dangerous living conditions in their country of origin which can include civil war, as well as hunger and a lack of a promising future for their children. According to Pew Research, about 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants came to the US in 2017, a number that represents 3.2% of the country’s entire population.
Do you know all there is to know about unauthorized immigration to the US? Now is your chance to catch up. Here are ten facts about illegal immigration to the country that you might not have known.
10. The Number of Unauthorized Mexican Immigrants is Declining
When you think of people coming to live in the US unauthorized, people from Mexico may come to mind first. This is likely because we hear about this group in relation to illegal immigration often in the media. Mexico and the US share a very large border, and many Mexicans come to live in the country both legally and illegally. It is a fact, however, that the number of unauthorized Mexicans coming to live in the US has been declining since 2007. In 2017, for the first time ever, Mexicans comprised less than half (47%) of all unauthorized immigrants to the US, down 10% from 2007. There are now approximately 2 million fewer unauthorized Mexican immigrants (4.9 million) living in the US than there were in 2007 (6.9 million).
9. Illegal Immigration from Non-Mexican Countries is Going Up
As illegal immigration for Mexico dips, the number of unauthorized immigrants from other countries is going up. The number of illegal immigrants in the US coming from other countries in 2017 totalled 5.5 million, up from 5.3 million in 2007. Illegal immigrants coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as well as from Asia have gone up. The number of illegal immigrants coming to the US from South America and Europe went down between 2007 and 2017.
8. 6 States Are Home to Over Half of All Illegal Immigrants
Unauthorized immigrants live in many places all across the US, but a large bulk are found in six specific states. More than half (57%) reside in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
7. More Are Staying For Longer
According to Pew Research Center, the number of unauthorized immigrants who have been living in the US for more than ten years has risen to 64%, compared with 41% in 2007. There has also been a decline in short term residents among this group.
6. India and the Philippines Are Top Countries of Origin
According to the Department of Homeland Security, some of the top countries people are coming from to live illegally in the US are not just found in the Americas, but further abroad. India and the Philippines are now also in the list of top countries of origin for unauthorized immigrants to the US.
5. Most Unaccompanied Children Are From Guatemala
People under the age of 18 are some of the illegal immigrants coming to the country. US Customs and Border Protection calls these migrants “unaccompanied alien children (UAC). When UAC arrive at the border, they are referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. These children are then cared for by this section of the government while their individual cases are examined. This process has garnered attention in recent years, with reports hitting the news that some children are living in squalid conditions when taken in by border agents, and are locked up in cells without adult supervision or enough food and water.
From where do they hail? UAC are coming to the US in the greatest numbers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, places the UN refugee agency says have become some of the most dangerous places to live on Earth. Guatemalan UAC account for 54% of all UAC coming to the US. Some authorities say this is in large part due to the rise of MS-13 in these countries. MS-13 is a savage street gang that has its roots in US prisons, but now controls entire neighborhoods in places like El Salvador, with initiation rights that force new members-often at risk, empoverished teenagers- to committ murder.
4. A Minority of People Actually Sneak Across the Border
President Donald Trump has pushed the idea of constructing a wall all the way across the US-Mexican border. This is being done in an attempt to keep illegal immigrants from creeping into the US from Mexico via land. The border wall is said to be costing about $30 million per mile in Southern Texas, and is proving to be the largest federal infrastructure project in American history. It is a fact however, that the wall may function to keep some illegal immigrants from entering the US, but not all. According to Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. Programs at the Migration Policy Institute only one-third of unauthorized immigrants come to the US by sneaking across the border.
3. They Are Much Less Likely to Commit Violent Crimes
Unauthorized immigrants are 47% less likely than American-born citizens to commit violent crimes and to be incarcerated, according to a June 2018 research report from the Cato Institute. According to CBS News, an additional study done by researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that in areas where more undocumented immigrants live, violent crime in the US is lower.
2. They Do Not Benefit from Government Welfare Programs
Unauthorized immigrants cannot apply for government welfare benefits, as they are not technically supposed to be living in the US. This group of people also cannot apply to receive food stamps in the US, regular Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Sometimes exceptions are made to "protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations," the National Immigration Forum has stated, but by and large, illegal immigrants are forced to fend for themselves once in the US.
1. Those Seeking Asylum Are Entering Legally
There can be some confusion as to what constitutes illegal immigration to the US. When it comes to legal immigration, in most cases people apply to immigrate from their home country and wait for their application to be processed. Most people need to be sponsored by an American citizen to be able to immigrate to the US. Once their case is approved, they receive either a Green Card or an immigrant visa. Other steps are then followed before they can immigrate to the country.
Some people do not arrive this way, however. They may seek asylum as refugees. This is a process that is entirely legal. Fewer than 23,000 people were granted refugee or asylum status in the US in 2018. Asylum is granted to people coming to the US who have "suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion," according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Being granted asylum takes years and requires applicants to provide extensive documented proof of their prior suffering, and to attend multiple interviews with government officials, among other things.