Immigration Costs, Benefits Unclear as Immigrants Near Record Share of U.S. Population

Immigrant families account for 61 million people in the U.S., according to research released Monday that raises questions about the extent to which immigration affects everything from schools to congested cities to the future of Social Security.

The level marks a staggering increase over the past 45 years, from 13.5 million in 1970, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which crunched the numbers based on Census Bureau data from December.

Of those, 45.3 million are legal immigrants and their U.S.-born children, while the rest are illegal immigrants and their children.

Steven A. Camarota, research director at the center, said the numbers should spark a conversation that has been missing from political debate, which has focused too heavily on illegal immigration, missing the much larger share of legal immigrants who are shaping the country.

“The fundamental questions that have to be asked are not even being asked. What is the desirable level of immigration?” he said. “Most immigration is legal. We have 45 million legal immigrants and their kids living in the United States right now. That has enormous implications across public policy.”

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