When the issue of immigration comes up these days – whether it’s the Dreamers, sanctuary cities or deportations – the media immediately thinks about those from México.
True, México has provided the largest number of immigrants (both legally and illegally) to the United States. That shouldn’t be a surprise because a huge swath the the southwestern U.S. once belonged to México.
Recent studies calculate the undocumented population in the country at about 11 million.
And, President Donald J. Trump has proposed to spend upwards of $33 billion for a wall on the México border to keep out undocumented immigration ... and drug traffickers.
1. What percentage of Mexicans make up the undocumented population?
It may surprise you that they make up about half of that population, according to the Pew Research Center. From a high of 6.4 million in 2009, undocumented Mexican immigrants are now estimated at about 5.4 million.
2. How about Dreamers? How many of them are Mexican born?
Again, we turn to the respected Pew Research Center. Of those who enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, 548,000 or 79.4 percent were born in México. Next up were El Salvador (3.7 percent), Guatemala (2.6 percent), Honduras (2.3 percent) and Perú (1.1 percent).
3. Is the undocumented population a drain on the public?
It depends on which study you want to believe.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, in 2017, puts a $134.9 billion cost for federal, state and local levels for 12.5 million undocumented residents. It also added the cost for about 4.2 million of their children, who are U.S. citizens. The group did subtract all taxes paid by undocumented residents (almost $19 billion) and came up with a net cost to U.S. taxpayers of $116 billion.
On the other hand, a 2016 study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that undocumented immigrant work resulted in “positive net benefits to the U.S. economy.” The 509-page report estimated that the 2011-13 net annual cost to state and local budgets was $57.4 billion. That figure compares with the FAIR estimate of $89 billion to state and local budgets.
The academy figured that employers benefited from the labor of undocumented workers.
In 2013, the Social Security Administration calculated that undocumented workers contributed $12 billion to the Social Security trust.
A 2016 Pew poll found that 57 percent of American believe immigrants strengthen the American economy.
4. After México, which countries account for the most undocumented residents?
The Department of Homeland Security identifies those from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras account for the next largest number of undocumented residents, but those figures are from 2009.
5. Are undocumented residents committing crimes at a high rate?
U.S. Census data shows that undocumented residents commit crime at a lower rate than legal U.S. residents. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 5 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons are non-citizens (meaning undocumented or permanent residents). That class accounts for 7 percent of the U.S. population.
6. Are naturalization rates up for those born in México?
Immigrants from México account for the largest share of those becoming U.S. citizens, and their naturalization rate is up 3 percentage points from 2005 to 2015. However, those from Ecuador and India accounted for a 12-point increase, according to the Pew Research Center.
For the record, Mexican immigrants have among the lowest naturalization rate. Fifty-eight percent are eligible for naturalization but have yet to apply. Compare that with the 86 percent of Vietnamese immigrants who do file for naturalization.
7. Who are well-known immigrants who became U.S. citizens?
The most famous, and perhaps the most important, would be German-born Albert Einstein. He became a U.S. citizen in 1940. Others include actress Pamela Anderson (from Canada), actor Pierce Brosnan (from Ireland ), and actress Salma Hayek (from México).
8. Where do most refugees come from?
According to the U.S. State Department, those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Burma accounted for 49 percent of U.S. refugees in 2016.
9. What country has taken in the most immigrants in recent years?
The United States accepted a little more than 1 million immigrants in 2015, followed by Germany with 686,000 and England with 379,000. Those pale in comparison, however, with the 2.7 million refugees that Jordan has taken in. Turkey is next with 2.5 million refugees accepted.
10. What is the best quote you’ve heard recently regarding immigration?
Hats off to Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, who responded this way when asked how to defend refugees from xenophobic attacks: “Most people don’t know that wherever America has dealings with, sooner or later you’ll see refugees from there. We have to recognize that in order to protect America interests we have to befriend people. My father was one of those, who risked his life to rescue American pilots, and returning bodies of American pilots back to the United States.
“Probably the hardest mission he went on was coming upon a jet that had been shot down and realizing the pilot had been killed, completely burned up. But it was so important for him as a soldier to retrieve every part of the body. He scraped the brain matter off the canopy. It was more about being a human.
“My family was faced with being put on the must-kill list in Laos. For my father, there was a value for killing him.
“We have to understand there is a reason why those refugees are here.”
Juan Esparza Loera has been editor of Vida en el Valle since it first published in August 1990. Send comments, questions or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org