Immigrant Population In U.S. Reaches All-Time High

New data from the Census Bureau is telling us that the number of immigrants entering the United States – both with and without documentation – is not only growing but accelerating. According to a report released in November by the Center for Immigration Studies – an organization that lobbies for lower levels of immigration and opposes comprehensive immigration reform – about three million new immigrants entered the United States in the years 2014 and 2015.

In the United States in 2015, the total foreign-born population, 43.3 million, was a record high. Despite the Center for Immigration Studies’ reputation as “opponents” of immigration, there’s no reason to doubt the accuracy of their November report, which is based on the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies said, “We are now certain that immigration surged in 2015.”

About 1.5 million new immigrants entered the United States in 2014, a 17 percent increase over 2013. In the first six months of 2015, another 914,000 new immigrants arrived in the U.S. At 13.5 percent, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population is larger than at any time since 1910, and according to Census Bureau projections, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. will reach a record level by 2022.

WHY IS THE PACE OF IMMIGRATION PICKING UP?

Why is the pace of immigration picking up right now? Camarota speculated that an improving economy is one reason, but he also pointed to procedural changes in federal immigration policies such as allowing the spouses of guest workers to obtain work permits in the United States. Congress also amended the rules for non-agricultural seasonal workers, so that those who worked in the U.S. last year and return this year do not count against the visa cap for workers in that category. Progressive legislation in states like California has also had a role in drawing immigrants to those states.

What are the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations? If you’re thinking New York, Florida, Texas, and California, you’d be entirely wrong. Surprisingly, from 2010 through 2015, the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations are North Dakota (up by 72.2 percent), Wyoming (38.9 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent), South Dakota (25.2 percent), and Delaware (21.8 percent). However, in terms of overall population as of 2015, California still has the highest percentage of immigrants (27.3 percent). The other top states are New York (22.9 percent), New Jersey (22.1 percent), Florida (20.2 percent), and Nevada (19.3 percent).

One key aspect of the new report is the changing demographics of the immigrants themselves. The percentage of those entering the United States from Mexico is declining, while the numbers  of new immigrants arriving from east Asia and South Asia are rising. In 2004, 35 percent of the new immigrants in the U.S. were from Mexico; by 2014, that number had declined to 11.6 percent. East Asian and South Asian immigrants constituted only 24.1 percent of the new immigrant population in 2004; that number grew to 38 percent in 2014.

Immigration from Central America is also rising. Non-Mexican immigrants from Latin America comprised 18.7 percent of the new immigrant population in 2011 and 23 percent in 2014. In 2015, the number of people from all Latin American nations living in the U.S. was 22.1 million, a 10 percent increase over 2010. Immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations constitute a far smaller number of people entering the U.S. – only 2.7 million in 2015 – but that still represents a 24 percent increase since 2010. Although they are frequently discussed in the news media, only 13,210 Syrian refugees have entered the U.S. since the beginning of 2016.

WHERE ELSE ARE THE NEW IMMIGRANTS ARRIVING FROM?

From everywhere, people are trying to get into the land of the free and the home of the brave any way they can. The arrests of more than 8,000 people from India, China, Romania, Bangladesh, and Nepal between October 2015 and August 2016 presents new challenges to immigration agents whose job is to apprehend those caught crossing the border without documentation. Surprisingly, India and China are now also among the leading nations of origin for people caught trying to enter the United States without documentation.  Of course, the best way to enter the U.S. is by the rules, with the help of someone like an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Victor Manjarrez, the director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso – and a one-time Border Patrol sector chief – says the increase in migrants from countries far beyond the western hemisphere should be considered a growing concern. “In the grand scheme, as a percentage, it’s relatively small but the raw numbers are such a big jump historically,” Manjarrez said. Why should immigrants from faraway nations be a growing concern?

Most Mexican immigrants caught at the border without documentation are sent home after just several days – they can basically be “just turned around.” But for those from nations on the other side of the world, the deportation process is lengthier and costlier. These immigrants may be held in immigration facilities for months, waiting for legal documents from their home nations or waiting for an immigration judge to determine their fate.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE IMMIGRANTS?

Of course, the best way to enter the United States is with full documentation and the counsel of an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. An immigration attorney helps international students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors obtain visas to enter the U.S., helps families reunite in the U.S., and helps employers hire immigrants and stay compliant with the plethora of immigration-related employment laws and regulations.

The rising number of immigrant arrivals from other continents, along with a rise in border crossings, has filled U.S. immigration facilities with more than 40,000 people in September and October. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget allows them to house only 34,000 at any given moment, and immigration authorities may face a budget crisis in the first months of 2017 if the trend persists.

Gillian Christensen, speaking for the Department of Homeland Security, says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has enough resources to operate “at current levels” through December 9, when a temporary budget resolution expires. After that, Christensen said, Homeland Security will have to shift resources from other agencies in the department or find an “alternative” budget strategy.