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October 2008, Volume 15, Number 4

Unauthorized, Population, States and Cities

Unauthorized. The US Department of Homeland Security in September 2008 estimated there were 11.8 million unauthorized foreigners in the US in January 2007, up from 8.5 million in 2000. California had 2.8 million unauthorized foreigners, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois (

The number of unauthorized foreigners in the US, which was increasing by 500,000 a year between 2002 and 2006, stabilized at about 12 million in 2007-08 and may be shrinking. Signs that there may be fewer unauthorized foreigners include a drop in apprehensions by the Border Patrol and reduced remittances to Mexico.

There have been reports of unauthorized Brazilians leaving the US from northeastern states because of rising US unemployment and stepped up enforcement as well as a booming Brazilian economy. Mexico and Central America, home to 75 percent of the unauthorized, do not have the pull of strong economies to attract significant numbers of nationals to return.

There is a debate over how fast the number of unauthorized foreigners is dropping, and whether the slowing economy or stepped-up enforcement is more responsible. The Center for Immigration Studies released a report in July 2008 that estimated a peak 12.5 million unauthorized foreigners in August 2007, and a drop to 11.2 million in May 2008. The CIS report concluded that a combination of "attrition through enforcement" and higher unemployment reduced the number of unauthorized foreigners.

CIS used Current Population Survey data to estimate 830,000 fewer foreign-born Hispanics aged 18 to 40 with a high school degree or less in May 2008 than in August 2007. CIS assumed that 75 percent of these Hispanics were unauthorized, and that they were two-thirds of the unauthorized in the US. Debate centered largely on whether the drop in the number of unauthorized foreigners should be credited to stepped-up enforcement or to rising US unemployment.

The Pew Hispanic Center released a report in October 2008 that agreed there are fewer unauthorized foreigners in the US. Pew estimated that the unauthorized population rose by 800,000 a year between 2000 and 2004, but only 500,000 a year between 2005 and 2007. Pew estimated that the 12 million unauthorized in March 2008 included seven million Mexicans, three million from the rest of Latin America, and two million from the rest of the world. Pew estimated about 8.5 million unauthorized foreigners in 2000.

Pew's data suggest that unauthorized foreigners are four percent of all US residents and 30 percent of the 39 million foreign-born US residents. Over 80 percent of the unauthorized were from Latin America, including almost 60 percent from Mexico. Over 85 percent of the unauthorized entered the US since 1990, including 45 percent who entered the US since 2000.

The Census reported in September 2008 that the foreign-born population of the US rose by 500,000 in 2007, half the million-a-year average between 2000 and 2006, including an average increase of 558,000 foreign-born Hispanics. Newly arrived Hispanics often find jobs in construction and other sectors that have shrunk in 2007-08.

Population. The US population rose from 281 million in 2000 to 302 million in 2007, an average increase of three million a year. Non-Hispanic whites are two-thirds of US residents, but will be a minority in 2042, according to the US census. The US is projected to have 400 million residents in 2039 and 439 million in 2050, an average annual increase of 3.1 million a year.

One reason why the census moved the date at which the majority of US residents will consist of minorities from 2050 to 2042 is increased immigration. The census raised its projections of immigration from 1.3 million a year to two million a year. If this occurs, the US will have a higher share of foreign-born residents in 2025 than it had in 1910, when 15 percent of US residents were born abroad. Birth rates among immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, are also higher than average.

Racial and ethnic minorities, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, are already a majority of residents in the 50 largest US cities and 43 percent of Americans under 20. Minorities are projected to be a majority of US residents under 18 in 2023, and a majority of working-age residents by 2039.

In 2008, the US population is 66 percent non-Hispanic white; 17 percent Hispanic; 13 percent Black; and four percent Asian. By 2050, the US population is expected to be 46 percent non-Hispanic white; 30 percent Hispanic; 15 percent Black; and nine percent Asian.

The US has 3,141 countries. In 302 counties, almost 10 percent, racial and ethnic minorities are a majority of residents. In a quarter of counties, minorities are over 50 percent of those under 20. Blacks are a majority of the residents in 82 counties, almost all in the south, and Hispanics are a majority of residents in 46 counties in the south and west. Los Angeles county had the largest minority population, seven million or 71 percent of its 10 million residents, including almost five million Hispanics. Los Angeles county also had the largest number of non-Hispanic whites of any county, almost three million.

States and Cities. California's population rose from 33.9 million to 36.6 million between 2000 and 2007, but the state's population growth has slowed from over 500,000 a year to about 300,000 a year. The number of births has been rising, to about 570,000 a year, while the number of deaths has been stable at about 240,000 a year. The increase in the state's foreign-born population has slowed to about 235,000 a year, and the net loss of California residents to other states has increased to over 250,000 a year, meaning that the state is losing more residents to other states than it gains via immigration.

Voter pressure to do more about unauthorized migration at the state level prompted many state and local governments to enact laws penalizing employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. In 2007, 240 of the 1,562 bills (15 percent) related to immigration that were introduced in state legislatures became law.

During the first seven months of 2008, 175 of 1,267 bills (14 percent) introduced in state legislatures became law ( A database of state laws is available at:

For example, Mississippi in 2008 became the first state to make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to work (SB 2988), with violators subject to fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of one to five years. All Mississippi employers, public and private, have been required to use E-Verify to check new hires beginning July 1, 2008.

South Carolina in June 2008 enacted an Illegal Immigration Reform Act (HB 4400) that requires all employers by July 1, 2010 to use E-verify to check the legal status of newly hired workers or ensure they present a valid South Carolina driver's license or ID card when hired ( Violations can result in fines and/or a suspension of business licenses.

Republican Governor Matt Blunt in October 2008 announced a new Missouri Gateway Taskforce to have the State Highway Patrol work with ICE to target "unscrupulous employers who actively engage in illegal employment of undocumented workers in Missouri." State troopers trained by ICE will work with local ICE offices for a week every four months on worksite enforcement, making the Missouri program the only so-called 287(g) federal-state program focused on closing the labor market door to unauthorized workers.

A combination of these state and local laws and stepped-up federal interior enforcement prompted some employers to push back, winning modifications of the toughest laws. The New York Times on July 6, 2008 cited examples of employers defeating bills that would have imposed state employer sanctions in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia. Another group sued to block implementation of a state employer sanctions law in Oklahoma.

In Arizona, initiatives that would have required law enforcement personnel to inquire about the legal status of all those they encounter, and allowed the revocation of the business licenses of employers who knowingly hired unauthorized workers the first time they were detected, failed to secure enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. Employers qualified an initiative that will appear on the November 2008 ballot and protect those who use E-Verify or comply with existing laws requiring I-9 forms to be completed on new hires from loss of their business licenses if they are found to have hired unauthorized workers.

Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio, running for a fifth term in the fourth most populous US county, has ordered deputies to check the legal status of persons they encounter and to check employees at some businesses. Deputies have been trained by ICE under the federal 287(g) program— Maricopa county has the most enforcers trained in the 63 state and local jurisdictions that have received training to detect and turn over to ICE suspected unauthorized foreigners. Several suits accusing Apria's deputies of racial profiling are pending.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office released public service announcements asserting: "Illegal immigration is fueling Arizona's violent crime and drug problem." Critics say the $800,000 campaign bolsters the re-election campaign of county attorney Andrew Thomas, who lost the state attorney's post to Terry Goddard in 2002.

Other states are moving in the opposite direction, promoting integration regardless of the legal status of migrants in their states. The governors of Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington signed orders making immigrant integration a priority for state governments. The orders usually establish councils to hold hearings and make recommendations on how to better coordinate state services for immigrants, including one-stop offices in immigrant neighborhoods.

Puerto Rico has a population of almost four million and a labor force of 1.4 million, including 11 percent unemployed. Over 300,000 Puerto Ricans are employed by government, three times the 100,000 employed in manufacturing. A budget crisis forced the Puerto Rican government to shut down for several weeks in 2006, prompting many educated and skilled Puerto Ricans to move to the US— as US citizens, Puerto Ricans can move freely to the US. Over 1,000 Puerto Ricans a week were reportedly moving to the mainland US in 2008, with Florida replacing New York City as the main destination.

Students. California is one of 10 states that allow unauthorized students to pay in-state tuition rates if they attended a California high school for three or more years and graduated, and file an affidavit saying they will legalize their status as soon as they are eligible. Federal law says that "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a state … for any postsecondary education benefit [federal or state] unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit … without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."

California public colleges say that they provide in-state tuition on the basis of California high school attendance, which a Court of Appeals in September 2008 ruled is a form of residence. It reinstated a suit filed by out-of-state parents who paid non-resident tuition to California colleges.

In FY07, the US Department of State issued a record 600,000 new student and exchange visas. The US has 4,000 accredited colleges and universities; they are a third of the 12,000 worldwide that admit foreign students.

Northeastern is the first American university to use a private for-profit partner, Kaplan Inc, to find foreign students for an academic program called Global Pathways. It allows foreign students to spend a year on campus before enrolling in regular degree programs.

Kaplan provides the teachers at the British universities where it operates similar programs, but Northeastern faculty will teach in its Global Pathways program. The year-long program costs $18,000 for the mostly Chinese and Korean students it attracts. Similar for-profit-university programs exist at Oregon State University and Britain's INTO University Partnerships.

Tamar Lewin, "College and Company Link Up to Lure Foreigners," New York Times, August 8, 2008. Moira Herbst, "The Immigration Fight Gets Ugly," Business Week, July 28, 2008. Camarota, Steven A. and Karen Jensenius. 2008. Homeward Bound: Recent Immigration Enforcement and the Decline in the Illegal Alien Population. CIS.