New Data: Immigration Surged in 2014 and 2015

CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES — An analysis of new government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than three million new legal and illegal immigrants settled in the United States in 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years. The number of legal and illegal immigrants settling in the country is now higher than before the 2007 recession and may match the level in 2000 and 2001. Immigration from other countries has offset a decline in immigration from Mexico.

Several factors have likely contributed to the rebound, including cutbacks in enforcement, an improved economy, and the expansive nature of our legal immigration system (especially for long-term temporary visas such as guestworkers and foreign students).

Among the findings:

  • New data collected by the Census Bureau shows that 3.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country in 2014 and 2015, or more than 1.5 million annually.

  • In 2012 and 2013, 2.3 million immigrants arrived, about 1.1 million annually. In 2010 and 2011, 2.1 million new immigrants arrived, about one million annually.

  • All of the above numbers are based on publicly 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).

  • Our preliminary estimate is that, of the 3.1 million immigrants who arrived in that last two years, about one-third, 1.1 million (or 550,000 annually) were new illegal immigrants, a significant increase from the 700,000 illegal immigrants (350,000 annually) who entered in 2012 and 2013.

  • The above estimate of illegal immigration represents the flow of new illegal aliens surreptitiously crossing the border, 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, both temporary and permanent, arriving from abroad has increased. Our best estimate is that the arrival of legal immigrants increased about 30 percent, from 1.6 million in 2012-2013 to two million in 2014-2015.

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