Who are the Unauthorized Immigrants in the US?
It is estimated that 11.7 million people living in the United States today are unauthorized immigrants. Who are these people? Where do they come from? How long have they been here? What do we know about them?
First, we need to understand the term “unauthorized immigrant”. This term includes people who made a legal entry into the United States and who remained past the date they were suppose to leave or who fell out of immigration legal status for a variety of reasons. The term “unauthorized immigrant” also includes those people who crossed the border without going through the immigration inspection process.
Oftentimes when people talk about “unauthorized immigrant”, they are referring to people from Mexico. According to data published by the Pew Research Center, only 52% of the 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico. That means that the 0ther 48% are from Asia, Canada, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa. [Yes, Virginia, there are a number of unauthorized immigrants in the US who are from Canada.]
Of the 11.7 million “unauthorized immigrants” in the US, approximately 7 million have lived in the US for more than 10 years. Of these, more than 2 million came to the US during the 1980s and 4.8 million came to the US in the 1990s. These long time residents of the US have children who are born in the US, many own homes, and many attend religious services each week.
According to Pew, 46% of unauthorized immigrant adults have minor children. Over half of the unauthorized immigrants age 25-64 have at least a high-school diploma or more. Pew also estimates that 45% of unauthorized immigrant households that have been in the US for 10 years or more were homeowners in 2008. Approximately 39% of unauthorized immigrant adults attend religious services at least one a week.