(Pew Research Center/by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S) The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years after decades of rapid growth. But there have been shifts in the states where unauthorized immigrants live and the countries where they were born.
President Obama’s executive action on immigration, announced Nov. 20, 2014, would among other things expand deportation relief to almost half the unauthorized immigrant population, though this part of the program is on hold due to a lawsuit to stop the move. While executive actions on immigration have a long history, Obama’s recent action was the most significant protection from deportation offered to unauthorized immigrants since 1986, when Congress passed a law that allowed 2.7 million unauthorized immigrants to obtain a green card.
Here are five facts about the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S.
1. There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. The population has remained essentially stable for five years, and currently makes up 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.
2. Mexicans make up about half of all unauthorized immigrants (49%), though their numbers have been declining in recent years. There were 5.6 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2014, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to preliminary Pew Research Center estimates.
3. Six states alone account for 60% of unauthorized immigrants — California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. But the distribution of the population is changing. From 2009 to 2012, several East Coast states were among those with population increases, whereas several Western states were among those with population decreases. There were seven states overall in which the unauthorized immigrant population increased: Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Meanwhile, there were 14 states in which the population decreased over the same time period: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Oregon. Despite a decline, Nevada has the nation’s largest share (8%) of unauthorized immigrants in its state population.
4. Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1% of the U.S. labor force. In the U.S. labor force, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. Among the states, Nevada (10%), California (9%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8%) had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in their labor forces.
5. About 7% of K-12 students had at least one unauthorized immigrant parent in 2012. Among these students, about eight-in-ten (79%) were born in the U.S. In Nevada, almost one-in-five students (18%) have at least one unauthorized immigrant parent, the largest share in the nation. Other top states on this measure are California (13%), Texas (13%) and Arizona (11%).
Note: This is an update of a post originally published on Nov. 18, 2014.