Many American citizens have strong opinions on both sides of the immigration argument, but do they truly understand our country’s current situation and immigration numbers? The last census was conducted in July 2016, and the Census Bureau reports a record 43.7 million immigrants, including those legally and illegally here, and claims they’re having a “profound impact on American society.”
That means that 500,000 new immigrants came to America since 2015, and 12.6 million since 2000.
The most recent census shows that immigrants make up 13.5 percent of the total American population as of 2016, the highest percentage in over 100 years, since 1910.
Historians refer to the 1910 era as one of the major immigration waves in U.S. history. At that time, European immigrants were flocking to the United States to escape the worldwide economic depression that had started 20 years earlier. Canadian and Latin American immigrants did the same. Some were escaping famine. Italian and Greek laborers came to do contract labor on stone work and other artisan crafts.
Europeans from the east and south with coal mine experience came to work in American mines, and many found employment in steel or textile mills. Polish and Russian Jews went to New York City seeking a better life. Companies advertised for immigrants to come over to work certain trades, and railroads promised cheap farmland to those who would come work in agriculture. However, most immigrants did opt for city life. Immigration continued at peak levels until World War I began in 1914. After the war, immigration restrictions were put in place in the 1920s.
A few clarifications need to be made about the 2016 numbers. First, the Census Bureau provides the following definition of immigrant: “foreign-born, not U.S. citizens at birth, includes naturalized citizens, immigrants here on temporary work programs and work visas, legal permanent residents, foreign students attending American institutions of higher education, temporary workers, and illegal immigrants.”
Secondly, per the census definition, the 43.7 million does not include children of immigrants who were born in America (with at least one immigrant parent). Adding that in increases the number by 16.6 million. All total, that is 60.4 million, or one in five U.S. residents. It’s astounding.
Steve Camarota’s organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, compiled the 2016 census data into a meaningful report. The CIS used 2016 data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Data were reported to reflect the American population as it was on July 1, 2016.
Camarota is the CIS director and also co-authored the report. He says, “the enormous number of immigrants already in the country coupled with the settlement of well over a million newcomers each year has a profound impact on American society, including on workers, schools, infrastructure, hospitals and the environment.” Camarota says our nation is long overdue for a serious discussion about whether the current level of immigration is sustainable, and whether it make sense to continue at this level.
The report details the origins of the recent immigration. It’s no surprise that immigrants from Mexico were by far the largest entering the country (11.6 million), and 1.2 million more immigrants have come in from Latin American countries since 2010, in particular El Salvador. One of President Trump’s and Jeff Sessions’ main reasons for stopping the DACA program was to halt immigration of MS-13 gang members posing as unaccompanied minors.
Muslim immigration has increased 30 percent since 2010. Saudi Arabia immigrants in particular were up 122 percent. There’s been a rise in immigration from every global region except Europe and Canada. India and China lead the pack, with the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Cuba and the Philippines not far behind.
Where do the immigrants go once they arrive in the U.S.? Over 500,000 each went to three states: Texas, Florida and California. Over 200,000 went to the New York area. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has put some of the toughest state immigration laws in place. He has also decreed that sanctuary cities are illegal and is now being sued by nearly every major Texas city because they want to harbor illegal immigrants as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and others have filed suit.
Even states not typically thought of as having immigrant populations have experienced massive increases, like North and South Dakota, West Virginia and Delaware. North Dakota has experienced a whopping 48 percent increase. So far, deportations are not keeping pace with influx. The highest number of deportations, around 436,000, actually occurred under Obama in 2013. President Trump has vowed to change that, particularly deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes in the U.S.