Legal and Illegal Immigration Surging 3.1 Million Immigrants Settled in the U.S. In Last Two Years

Steven Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies, May 31, 2016

An analysis of new government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than 3 million new legal and illegal immigrants settled in the United States over the course of 2014 and 2015–a 39 percent increase over the prior two-year period. (The Census Bureau groups data like this to preserve anonymity.) The number of arrivals fell to a low in 2010-2011, but has dramatically rebounded and is now above pre-recession levels. The Center estimates that 1.1 million of the arrivals are new illegal immigrants and 2 million are new legal immigrants. Cutbacks in enforcement, an improved economy, and the expansive nature of our legal immigration system likely have all contributed to the rebound.

The Center for Immigration Studies’ Director of Research and the lead author of the report, Dr. Steven Camarota, observes, “The numbers show that Mexican immigration has rebounded somewhat and there has been a dramatic rise in immigration from Asia and the rest of Latin America.” Camarota also points out that, “Given the enormous number of immigrants settling in the country, it is certainly understandable that immigration levels are a central issue in the presidential election.”

View the entire report here.

Among the findings in the new study:

  • New data collected by the Census Bureau shows that 3.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) entered the country in 2014 and 2015, an average of more than 1.5 million annually.
  • In 2012 and 2013, 2.3 million immigrants arrived, or about 1.1 million annually. In 2010-2011, 2.1 new immigrants arrived, or about 1 million annually.
  • All of these numbers are based on publically available information in Census Bureau data; no adjustments have been made for those missed by the bureau. But even without adjusting for undercount, the scale of new immigration is enormous.
  • The big increase in new arrivals in the last two years was driven by a rise in immigration from Latin America (particularly countries other than Mexico), South Asia (e.g. Pakistan and India) and East Asia (e.g. China and Vietnam).
  • Of the 3.1 million immigrants who arrived in the last two years, we estimate about one-third–1.1 million, or 550,000 annually–were new illegal immigrants, a 57 percent increase from the 700,000 (350,000 annually) who entered in 2012-2013.
  • The above estimate of illegal immigration represents the flow of new illegal aliens surreptitiously crossing the border or overstaying a temporary visa or released into the country after a short detention, such as families from Central America. The numbers do not represent the net increase in the total illegal immigrant population.

The available evidence also indicates that the number of new legal immigrants arriving from abroad has increased, both temporary and permanent. Our best estimate is that the arrival of legal immigrants increased about 30 percent, from 1.6 million in 2012-2013 to 2 million in 2014-2015.

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