Arizona’s immigrant population reached 851,000 in March, with an estimated 46 percent of that number here illegally, according to a report based on new Census Bureau data.
The report released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies also found that Arizona has one of the nation’s largest disparities in terms of educational levels between its native-born and immigrant populations, with poorly educated immigrants languishing.
Forty percent of immigrants—but only 7 percent of natives—have not finished high school, ranking Arizona third worst in that category behind Texas and Colorado, said Steven Camarota, the Washington-based center’s research director.
Camarota said he believes illegal immigrants have become such a hot issue in Arizona because of the educational disparities. “If they were more educated, I think it would be less of an issue,” he said. “The differences between the two groups (immigrants and native-born) are so big it creates enormous social distance.”
Meanwhile, nearly 47 percent of immigrants and 40 percent of natives without a high school diploma are on a welfare program as opposed to under 13 percent of college-educated immigrants and just 6 percent of natives.
And 58 percent of Arizona’s immigrants—legal and illegal—live in or near poverty, with 28 percent actually in poverty.