Immigration Facts & Figures

There are approximately 41 million immigrants in the United States, an all-time high for a nation historically built on immigration. The United States remains a popular destination attracting about 20% of the world’s international migrants. Immigrants accounted for 13% of U.S. residents; adding the U.S.-born children (of all ages) of immigrants means that approximately 80 million people, or 25% of the overall U.S. population, is either of the first or second generation.

Migration Information Source


20% of the current U.S. Catholic population was born outside of the United States — up from 7% in 1980.

Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)


There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US — about 3.5% of the total population.

Pew Research Center


There are about 5 million children living in the U.S. with at least 1 undocumented parent.

Migration Policy Institute


From October 2013 to September 2014, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 68,541 children who arrived in the United States without a parent—77% more than a year earlier. Of these unaccompanied minors, 75% came from three violence-torn Central American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.


Since 1998 approximately 4,500 people, mostly young poor Latin Americans, have died of thirst and hunger in the American desert looking for a better life or seeking to reunite with family members in the US.

The U.S. Border Patrol


The cost of a wall between the United States and Mexico (1,000 miles) is projected to cost $27 to $40 billion. The cost to build the Berlin Wall (96 miles) in 1961 was $200 million.

CNBC


Jobs

Immigrants fill gaps in low and high skilled jobs left by American born workers. Many start their own businesses, employing others and collectively add billions of dollars to the US economy.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


The percentage of Americans without a high school diploma has fallen from 50% in the 1960’s to 7% today—and immigrants are filling the jobs vacated by increasingly educated Americans.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Unemployment in border states has remained below the national average despite high levels of immigration.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Studies show that legalization would likely improve wages for all workers.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Job openings are expanding at educational levels where demographic data show too few native-born students, so we can expect these shortfalls to persist in the future. Moreover, relative to other economic indicators, wages are increasing in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs requiring higher education.

US Chamber of Commerce


The Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies reports that removing the approximately 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States would not automatically create 8 million job openings for unemployed Americans. The reason, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is two-fold. For one, removing millions of undocumented workers from the economy would also remove millions of entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers. The economy would actually lose jobs. Second, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different skills that often complement one another.

CNN Money


Immigrants, regardless of status, fill the growing gap between expanding low-skilled jobs and the shrinking pool of native-born Americans who are willing to take such jobs. By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, agriculture, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enabled those sectors to expand, attract investment, and create middle-class jobs in management, design and engineering, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ U.S. citizens.

CNN Money


The AFL-CIO, one of America’s largest unions, supports the immigration reform. Its website states, For far too long, our broken immigration system has allowed employers to drive down wages and working conditions in our country. The brunt of the impact has been born by immigrant workers, who face the highest rates of wage theft, sexual harassment, and death and injury on the job.

CNN Money


Immigrants give a slight boost to the average wages of Americans by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment.

US Chamber of Commerce


Immigrants will replenish the US labor force as millions of “Baby Boomers” retire.

US Chamber of Commerce


The Law

Undocumented immigrants have not committed a crime and are not criminals. They have violated civil code such as when a person ignores a traffic ordinance. Migrants and their families enter the US for jobs and to survive. Visas and legal channels to work or to reunite with family members are severely limited. The conundrum is that they are given jobs but not legal status. Human beings are not illegal.


Many Americans want immigrants to enter the country legally. But under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating. According to the State Department, that imaginary “immigration line” is already over 4 million people long and depending on the type of visa sought and the country of origin, the wait can be years to decades long. In some countries, such as the Philippines and Mexico people have been waiting over 20 years for approval of a family-sponsored visa.

CNN Money


Immigrants can legally get to the U.S by being sponsored by an employer or a family member, they can enter the country as refugees, or they could receive one of the selectively distributed professional or diversity visas. The Diversity Visa Program makes 55,000 green cards available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. According to the State Department, the fees to obtain permanent U.S. visas can range from $200 to over $700, excluding legal fees. Plus, there are visa quotas which limits immigration from any given country.

CNN Money


In many poor, violence-ridden countries, or in cases where parents are separated from their children, immigrants say the wait is unbearable, leaving many to resort to illegal border crossing. That journey can be expensive and deadly. Smugglers charge anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $70,000 depending on country of origin, mode of transport and distance traveled according to the Mexican Migration Project, a multidisciplinary research effort between investigators in Mexico and the U.S.

CNN Money


U.S. undocumented residents face crime, exploitation, and abuse. Anti-immigrant measures deprive them of housing and basic services. Increased police enforcement of federal immigration laws effectively denies them access to police protection. In short, the undocumented do not receive the law’s protections, only its sanctions.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


Many undocumented workers are taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers who underpay them for their time. According to the Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development,

37% have experienced minimum wage violations

84 % have experienced overtime violations

76 % have experienced working “off the clock”

Of those who made complaints, 62% experienced one or more forms of illegal retaliation such as threatening to contact immigration authorities, firing or suspending worker or threatening to cut pay.


The U.S. Department of State reported that 3.5 million persons who had been approved for family-based visas had not yet received them. Most of those approved remain in the United States with their families, waiting for years for their visas to become available. When they leave the country to pick up their visas, they will be barred from re-entering for years based on their past “unlawful presence.”

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


The relatively open U.S. job market accommodates more than 8 million, or 5% undocumented workers. However, the United States provides visas for no more than 10,000 unskilled workers each year.  The lack of coherence between U.S. labor needs and its immigration system is inconsistent with the “rule of law.”

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


About 7% of U.S. children in grades K-12 had at least 1 parent without legal status. 79% of these children were born in the U.S. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States and “subject to its jurisdiction.” In 2007, 96 members of Congress co-sponsored legislation interpreting the phrase “subject to its jurisdiction” to exclude the children of undocumented persons.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


Repeated studies have affirmed that the outcome of deportation cases, which can lead to death, torture, and permanent banishment from the country, turn more on legal representation, detention, and the individual judge than on the merits of an underlying claim.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


An immigration system that honored the “rule of law” would protect those fleeing persecution and violence; it would encourage immigrants to cooperate with the police; its court decisions would turn on the strength of an underlying claim; its admission policies would expedite family reunification and serve the nation’s need for both high-end and less skilled workers; and it would provide millions of hardworking immigrants with a path to legal status.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


Immigration reform would enable our U.S immigration system to honor the “rule of law.”

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


For immigrants that are also refugees, the “credible fear” test is the key that unlocks the gate to asylum and permanent residence in the US. 92% of asylums applicants pass this test. The number of individuals passing this critical test has increased 600% since 2007.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Center for Migration Studies


The Economy

The immigrant community is a net benefit to the US economy. The average immigrant, in a lifetime, pays a net of $80,000 more in taxes than they collect in government services. Without guest workers, the US economy would lose as much as $9 billion a year in agricultural productions and 20% of the current production would go overseas.


Many unauthorized immigrants are low-wage employees whose hard work helps produce more affordable goods for all U.S. consumers. Deporting these workers will lead to labor shortages that will increase the costs of U.S. goods.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Immigrants are also consumers themselves, which increases demand for the goods and services of U.S. industries.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Immigrant workers are just as vulnerable during recessions as native workers due to their lower levels of skill and education, their relative youth, and their over-representation in the most vulnerable U.S. industries.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Scholars have suggested for decades that migrants’ (particularly undocumented migrants’) decisions to return to their home country depends more on the conditions in the home country than those of the receiving country.  This is one reason that development of sending countries is a critical pillar of comprehensive immigration reform.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Taxes

Between 50-75% of undocumented immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion in federal, state and local & sales taxes each year.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Undocumented workers pay sales taxes where applicable and property taxes – directly if they own and indirectly if they rent.

US Chamber of Commerce, CNN Money


Collectively, they pay over $10 billion to state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Contributions vary by state. In Montana they contribute about $2 million. In California, more than $2 billion. On average they pay more than 6% of their income in state and local taxes.

CNN Money


Immigrants are needed to grow the tax base for an aging workforce to support the retiring generation.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


A 2013 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis found that increasing legal immigration would increase government spending on refundable tax credits, Medicaid and health insurance subsidies, among other federal benefits. But it would also create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes. That could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade.

CNN Money


The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that allowing certain immigrants to stay in the country and work legally would boost state and local tax contributions by $2 billion a year.

CNN Money


Reports from several states such as Texas show that unauthorized immigrants contribute as much as $1.5 billion to state revenues. Legalization would force unscrupulous employers to contribute payroll taxes for their immigrant workers and thus further increase state revenues.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Social Security

Unauthorized immigrants are paying an estimated $15 billion a year into Social Security, with no ability of ever collecting benefits. Without the 3 million undocumented immigrants paying into the system, Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.

CNN Money


The Social Security Administration also credits undocumented workers for paying an additional $520 billion under mismatching Social Security numbers. Because they are unable to collect social security due to their unauthorized status, this money helps to ensure the funds long term viability for future generations of retirees.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Without immigrants, the Social Security Board of Trustees projects that the system will no longer be able to pay the full promised benefits by 2037.

CNN Money


Welfare

On a federal level, with very few exceptions (i.e. prenatal care), unauthorized migrants are ineligible to receive welfare, benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”), Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status. On a state level, individual states have to make an affirmative legislative decision to provide services to the unauthorized populations. The default position is such that the unauthorized population is prohibited from receiving such benefits. Even legal immigrants face stringent eligibility restrictions until they have been in the United States for more than 5 years.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops/US Chamber of Commerce/CNN Money


Non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25% less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born equivalents and are also 37% less likely to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”), according to a 2013 study by the Cato Institute.

CNN Money


Citizen children of illegal immigrants — often derogatorily referred to as “anchor babies” — do qualify for social benefits. Also, undocumented immigrants are eligible for schooling and emergency medical care. Currently, the average unlawful immigrant household costs taxpayers $14,387 per household, according to a recent report by The Heritage Foundation. But in its 2013 “Immigration Myths and Facts” report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says most economists see providing these benefits as an investment for the future, when these children become workers and taxpayers.

CNN Money


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 concluded that a path to legalization for immigrants would have increased federal revenues by $48 billion. Such a plan would have seen $23 billion in increased costs from the use of public services, but ultimately, it would produce a surplus of $25 billion for government coffers.

CNN Money


In 2015, the United States allocated about $3 billion (or .0818% of the Federal budget) for migration & refugee assistance.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Community Assimilation

Immigrants have economically revitalized many communities throughout the country.

US Chamber of Commerce


Today’s immigrants are buying homes, becoming US citizens and learning English.

US Chamber of Commerce


Crime

Immigration does not cause crime rates to rise, and immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than native born Americans.

US Chamber of Commerce


Security

Immigration reform is an integral part of any effective border security strategy.

US Chamber of Commerce


Bias & Unequal Treatment

Throughout American history, Catholic immigrants have been opposed by “nativist” groups, primarily in response to a surge of Irish Catholic immigration. 2 of the most well know of these groups were the “Know Nothings” and the “American Party.” The goal of these groups was to preserve the status for some of the established inhabitants of this country. Much of the opposition to Catholics came from earlier immigrant groups who were not actually “native” themselves. Today many of those who hold these views do not consider themselves “nativists” but “patriots.”


The 9 -11 terrorists entered the U.S. with student, tourist or business visas – not as immigrants or refugees.


A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found that the potential threat of terrorists crossing from Canada into the U.S. was greater than that from Mexico, in part due to the northern border’s greater length. However there are 650 miles of fence along the US-Mexico border (with proposals to add more) and about 9 times as many US Border Patrol along the US-Mexican border as there are along the US-Canadian border.


Children

Every week in immigration courts around the country, thousands of children act as their own lawyers, pleading for asylum or other type of relief in a legal system they do not understand.

New York Times


In the United States, suspected killers, kidnappers and others facing federal felony charges are entitled to court-appointed lawyers if they cannot afford them. But children accused of violating immigration laws, a civil offense, do not have the same right.

New York Times


Having a lawyer makes a difference. More than 50% of the children who do not have legal representation are deported. Only 10% of the children who do have an attorney suffer the same fate.

New York Times


Detention Centers

The US maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining approximately 380,000 to 442,000 persons per year.  Legal permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking–are detained for weeks, months, and sometimes years.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains women, men and children in over 200 county jails and for-profit prisons.

Civic


Since the 1990’s the detention population has increased 4 times to approximately 34,000 individuals each day, due in part to Congressional mandated lock-up quotas.

Civic


The U.S. immigration detention system is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the 1980s, there were only approximately 30 people in immigration detention each day.

Civic


The 1980s gave rise to two major prison corporations, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic), that lobbied the government for laws that expanded detention and other forms of incarceration. These companies have a financial interest in building and filling as many detention centers as possible.

Civic


Immigrant detention centers cost a lot of money and Congress has appropriated a large budget for them. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimates that it costs the government $12,500 to deport each individual, but when the costs of apprehension, detention, legal processing, and transportation are combined, the government spends more than $23,000 to deport each person.  Detention alone cost taxpayers approximately $2 billion each year.

Civic


There is no independent oversight of the system, and people in the immigration detention centers are vulnerable to abuse.  Immigrants are often subjected to punitive and long-term solitary confinement.  They are subject to inadequate medical care, vulnerable to rape and assault, and often isolated from access to legal assistance and community support.

Civic