Securing the Border: Defining the Current Population Living in the Shadows and Addressing Future Flows
Testimony of Marc R. Rosenblum, Deputy Director, U.S. Immigration Program, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for the March 26, 2015 hearing, “Securing the Border: Defining the Current Population Living in the Shadows and Addressing Future Flows.”
"Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Carper, Members of the Committee,
Good morning. My name is Marc Rosenblum, and I am deputy director of the U.S. immigration program at the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC that analyzes U.S. and international migration trends and policies. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
The United States is currently home to about 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants. My statement analyzes this population, explaining: 1) why the United States has such a large unauthorized population, 2) what we know about the characteristics of unauthorized immigrants in the United States and 3) potential strategies to divert unauthorized immigrants into legal channels.
With 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants in 2012, the United States is believed to have the largest unauthorized population of any country in the world. If all unauthorized immigrants in the United States lived in the same state, they would constitute the 8th largest state, slightly behind Ohio, with 11.6 million people, and well ahead of Georgia, with 10.1 million. If U.S. unauthorized immigrants lived in their own country, they would be the 78th largest country in the world, in between Cuba and Greece, and larger than 118 sovereign members of the United Nations.
In light of these numbers, it’s easy to forget that large-scale illegal migration is a relatively new phenomenon for the United States. Historically, the United States did not experience significant illegal migration during earlier waves of large-scale immigration because the overall numbers of immigrants reflected job opportunities in the country. Immigrants during those earlier periods were screened against qualitative restrictions (e.g. health, national origin), not numerical ceilings, which were not included in earlier immigration law. Thus, the U.S. unauthorized population stood at between 1 million and 2 million in 1970, and most unauthorized immigrants were seasonal agricultural workers who returned home on a regular basis. Their numbers grew to about 3 million in 1980, 3.5 million in 1990 (despite the legalization of an estimated 2.7 million people following the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act), 8.5 million in 2000, and to an all-time high of 12.2 – 12.4 million in 2007. [...]"