Posted on October 31, 2018

Legal and Illegal Immigration Surged to 1.75 Million in 2016

Email Update, Center for Immigration Studies, October 31, 2018

Not just the current caravans: New Latin American arrivals doubled since 2011

Washington, D.C. (October 31, 2018) – A Center for Immigration Studies analysis of new Census Bureau data shows that 1.75 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) arrived in 2016, matching the highest single year of immigration in American history. The new numbers represent a continuation of the dramatic rebound in new arrivals since 2011, when annual immigration bottomed out after the Great Recession. Newly arrived immigrants include new permanent residents (green cards), long-term “temporary” visitors (e.g. guest workers and foreign students), asylum seekers, as well as new illegal immigrants.

Steven Camarota, the Center’s director of research and co-author of the report, said, “The enormous number of new immigrants settling in the United States in recent years primarily reflects the nation’s generous legal immigration system. Like taxes or spending, the level of legal immigration can be changed. But for too long the system has run on autopilot, with little regard for the interests of the American people.”

View the full report:

Among the findings:

  • The arrival of 1.75 million immigrants (legal and illegal) in 2016 continues the post-2011 surge in immigration. In 2011 it was 1.08 million; in 2012 it was 1.21 million; in 2013 it was 1.28 million; in 2014 it was 1.5 million; and in 2015 it was 1.62 million.
  • Half of the increase in new arrivals (legal and illegal) since 2011 has been from Latin America, which doubled from 335,000 in that year to 668,000 in 2016.
  • Latin America surpassed Asia (East Asia and South Asia combined) as the top sending-region in 2016. Asia had been the top sending-region since 2010.
  • Annual immigration from Central America alone has nearly tripled, from 46,000 in 2011 to 133,000 new arrivals in 2016. This reflects in part the dramatic increase in illegal immigrant families from Central America crossing the southern border.
  • Compared to 2011, new immigration (legal and illegal) from South America is up by 250 percent, to 171,000 in 2016, and new arrivals from the Caribbean roughly doubled to 168,000 over the same time period.
  • Other regions showing a large increase in new annual arrivals since 2011 are South Asia (Indian subcontinent), up 54 percent to 244,000 in 2016; East Asia, up 30 percent to 355,000 in 2016; and the Middle East, up 78 percent to 137,000.
  • Mexico and India are in a statistical tie as the top sending countries, with 196,000 and 194,000, respectively, arriving in 2016. China was third, with 171,000 new immigrants.
  • While the number of new arrivals from Mexico has increased nearly 50 percent since 2011, the number coming remains well below the annual level of more than a decade ago, when 400,000 to 500,000 new arrivals (legal and illegal) came from our southern neighbor each year.
  • The dramatic increase in new immigrants settling in the United States in recent years is primarily driven by the nation’s generous legal immigration system, both long-term temporary visa holders (e.g. guest workers and foreign students) and new permanent residents (green cards).
  • There is evidence that the arrival of new illegal immigrants may also have rebounded in the last few years. The number of new less-educated Hispanic immigrants increased 76 percent between 2011 and 2016. However, the level remains well below what it was before the Great Recession.
  • The decision to admit large numbers of unaccompanied minors and families at the southern border likely accounts for some of the increase in new illegal immigration since 2011, particularly from Central America.
  • While complete data for 2017 will not be released until next year, in the first six months of 2017, 930,000 new immigrants settled in the country. This is less than in the first six months of 2016, and may indicate that new immigration fell somewhat between 2016 and 2017
  • The falloff in arrivals in the first part of 2017 may reflect increased enforcement, lower refugee admissions, and more robust vetting of applicants undertaken by the Trump administration.
  • Based on past patterns, when the data becomes available for all of 2017, it may show 1.61 million new immigrants arrived in all of 2017, though that projection is only preliminary. If correct, it would mean that new arrivals in 2017 were lower than in 2016, but still higher than any year since 2000, with the exception of 2016.

Marguerite Telford
Director of Communications, Center for Immigration Studies
(202) 466-8185
[email protected]

[Editor’s Note: The full report contains charts, tables, and graphs.]