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October 2018, Volume 24, Number 4

ACS, Wall, Public Charge

American Community Survey data released by the Census in September 2018 found that 44.5 million or 13.7 percent of US residents were born abroad in July 2017. DHS estimates that up to two million foreign-born residents are missed by the ACS, which would make the total number of immigrants over 46 million.

In 2017, there were 11.3 million US residents born in Mexico; 2.8 million born in China; 2.6 million born in India; two million born in the Philippines; 1.4 million born in El Salvador; and 1.3 million each born in Vietnam and Cuba.

Half of foreign-born US residents are from Latin America and 31 percent are from Asia. Recent immigrants are more likely to be from Asian than from Latin American countries. Between 2010 and 2017, there was an increase in 3.9 million imigrants born in Asian countries, compared to a 3.7 million increase in persons born in Latin American countries.

California has the most immigrants, 10.7 million, and the highest share of immigrants in its statewide population, 27 percent. Texas is second, with 4.9 million immigrants, but they are only 17 percent of the state's population. New York has 4.5 million immigrants, and they are 23 percent of the state's population.

The fastest growth in immigrant populations between 2010 and 2017 was in states that have relatively few immigrants. These states were led by North Dakota, where the number of immigrants rose 87 percent, followed by Delaware, up 37 percent, and West Virginia, up 30 percent.

The Census projects that the number and share of US residents who are born abroad will continue rising, reaching 14 percent in 2020 and surpassing 15 percent before 2030.

Wall. Republicans and Democrats took opposite approaches to immigration before November 2018 elections. President Trump promised to build a wall on the 2,000 mile Mexico-US border, with Mexico paying for its construction. Trump also promised to deport the 11 million unauthorized foreigners, beginning with those convicted of US crimes.

In rallies before the midterm elections, Trump praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and warned of the dangers of MS-13 and other immigrant gang members. With polls showing that immigration was the top concern of a quarter of Republicans, tackling illegal immigration was considered important to motivate conservatives to vote.

Some Democrats, on the other hand, decried the May-June 2018 separation of families at the border and called for the abolishment of ICE. Some activists confronted the DHS secretary and White House staff in public places to protest their support of efforts to reduce illegal migration.

Trump in July 2018 threatened to shut down the government if Congress does not provide funding for a wall on the Mexico-US border. Trump tweeted: "I would be willing to shut down government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!"

The House appropriations bill included $5 billion for border barriers, and the Senate provided $1.6 billion. The Government Accountability Office released a report in August 2018 warning that DHS's Border Wall System Program may cost more than anticipated and may not deter unauthorized entries. DHS requested $18 billion for 722 miles of barriers in 17 areas along the 2,000 mile Mexico-US border.

Public Charge. The US has always been suspicious of newcomers seeking a "hand out" rather than a "hand up" the economic ladder. Immigration laws have long allowed border officers to refuse entry or remove foreigners who become a "public charge? an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence."

The 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that half of households headed by immigrants participated in at least one federal welfare program, ranging from Food Stamps to Medicaid to Earned Income Tax Credits. These benefits were often for US-born children in immigrant-headed households.

DHS in September 2018 proposed new regulations entitled, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, that could deny green cards or immigrant visas to foreigners who use federal means-tested welfare benefits such as Medicaid and SNAP (Food Stamps). DHS estimated that 382,000 potential immigrants a year could be affected. Some immigrants might be asked to post bonds of $10,000 to obtain green cards; the bonds would be forfeited if they used federal benefits.

DHS in the past considered those who received half or more of their income from government cash assistance to be public charges. Under the proposed September 2018 regulations, DHS would expand the definition to include in-kind benefits. Refugees and asylum seekers would be exempt.

DACA. President Trump September 5, 2017 called for an end to DACA, but gave Congress until March 2018 to enact a legislative fix. Congress failed to act, but three federal judges issued injunctions requiring DHS to continue to renew DACA's temporary work and resident permits for 690,000 unauthorized foreigners brought to the US before age 16 and who graduated from US high schools.

A federal judge in Washington DC ordered DHS to resume accepting new applications for temporary protected status, but stayed the order to allow DHS to appeal. Federal judge Andrew Hanen in Texas, who issued an injunction blocking DAPA from going into effect, opined that DACA was likely unlawful, but refused to issue an injunction to block renewals as requested by several state attorney generals.