The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has published another blockbuster report on immigration numbers, and their analysis foreshadows a troubling trend of growing illegal immigration. Using the most up-to-date census data, they have uncovered a trend that has been lost from some of the traditional immigration-related data published by the Department of Homeland Security, which tends to lag behind the most recent trends.
To begin with, this report reaffirms the known reality of record high levels of immigration across the board and from Latin America, and the trend is only growing. Among the highlights of the report are the following:
- The nation’s immigrant population has grown 4.1 million from the second quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2015, with roughly 2.1 million of the growth coming from Latin America, of which 1 million are from Mexico.
- Over the past year alone (second quarter of 2014 through second quarter of 2015), the immigration population has grown by 1.7 million. Seventy-one percent of this growth has come from Latin America (1.2 million) and 44% (740,000) from Mexico alone.
- Overall, there are 42.1 million immigrants in the country, 13.3% of the nation’s total population, which is the largest share in 105 years. As I noted in my immigration report in June, that trajectory is projected to explode. By 2060, the immigrant population will grow to78.2 million – 18.8% of the total population.
The problem is that the period of illegal immigration has overlapped with the most protracted period of legal immigration expansion and has originated from the countries that have had a monopoly on our legal immigration
Record Legal Immigration, Particularly from Latin America
First, this report demonstrates, once again, that the record high levels of legal immigration are continuing to spike. Moreover, the largest increases continue to be from the very countries that send us the most illegal immigrants. As the report’s authors, Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler, note, an estimated eight out of 10 illegal immigrants are from Latin America. According to DHS, as of 2012, 59% were from Mexico alone.
Liberals and many faux conservative supporters of amnesty defend illegal immigration as a natural consequence of “a broken legal immigration system” where it is impossible to come here legally. The problem is that the period of illegal immigration has overlapped with the most protracted period of legal immigration expansion and has originated from the countries that have had a monopoly on our legal immigration. According to Pew, 50% of all immigrants since 1965 have come from Latin America – 29% from Mexico alone. What this new CIS report shows is that the trend has continued, and in fact, over the past year there has been a massive spike – with 44% of our entire growth in the immigrant population originating from just one country – Mexico – and 71% coming from Latin American overall.
If anything, it is clear that the liberal premise is antithetical to the reality – that the more we hand over the keys to immigration to a particular area, the more people will come through all available channels – both legal and illegal – to join their friends, families, and communities.
The Likely Resurgence of Illegal Immigration from Mexico
Camarota and Zeigler rightly concludes that “while the impact of illegal immigration is often the subject of intense national debate, the much larger flow of legal immigrants has seen almost no discussion, even though its impact on American society is much larger.”
However, there is another disturbing trend parsimoniously dealt with in this report that hints towards a new massive increase in illegal immigration both from Mexico and Central America over the past year. Apologists for open borders have long promoted the talking point that net migration from Mexico has gone down to zero since the Great Recession and that most of the new illegal immigration is only from Central America. It is now clear that this trend has completely reversed itself and it is incontrovertibly due, in part, to Obama’s policies and the national push for the Gang of 8 bill (promoted and cheered on by many presidential candidates) that sent the message to the world that if they come here now – either through the border or by overstaying a temporary visa – they are home free and will eventually reap the windfall of mass amnesty.
The presentation of the CIS immigration data by the inimitable Camarota is eye opening because it appears that the recent spike in immigration from Mexico is even more than indicated by the raw numbers counting green cards. The numbers that are typically cited throughout the web are 1 million immigrants overall per year and roughly 135,000-145,000 from Mexico alone – almost twice the second highest recipient country of U.S. green cards. These numbers come from the Department of Homeland Security, but the most recent year with full data is 2013. 
Although these numbers are huge, the CIS report (using census data) reveals that there have been 1.7 million new immigrants over the past 12 months, 740,000 from Mexico alone – much higher than the 135,000 green cards granted to Mexican nationals the previous year (calendar year 2013). Camarota notes that the number of immigrants from Mexico grew 449,000 in just the first 6 months of 2015! How can this be?
Clearly, if the census data is anywhere close to being accurate, there has been a massive surge of illegal immigration from Mexico alone that has been covered up by the Administration and most media outlets.
Remember, the census numbers already account for the fact that a number of people have left or died (unlike the numbers from DHS that measure raw admissions and issuance of documents). Which means that if the net increase in immigration from Mexico was 740,000, the number of new arrivals could easily be 900,000-1,000,000. That trajectory appears to be growing even from last year based on the first half of 2015. Moreover, less than half of the 135,000 green cards for Mexican nationals (as well as the 1 million overall green cards) reflect new arrivals; they are adjustments of status for those already here on non-immigrant visas or other temporary legal categories.
Included in the survey are also student visas and work visas. For the most recent academic year, 14,779 student visas were granted to Mexican nationals. During fiscal year 2014, which already overlaps a few months with the year we are studying (July 2014-June 2015), roughly 140,000 H guest worker visas were given to Mexicans, the highest number on record. In totality, this should mean that if the number of immigrant and non-immigrant visas issued over the past 12 months held stable at the pretty consistent trend from the previous few years; roughly 215,000 new Mexican foreign nationals arrived in the country legally this past year.
How then does the census data indicate that there has been a 740,000 net increase in migration from Mexico in just 12 months, which would likely reflect a reality of up to 1 million new arrivals? There could have been a spike in more legal immigrants and guest workers (and we won’t know until DHS publishes the data in late 2016), but only within the margins because the existing trend is already close to the statutory caps.
Clearly, if the census data is anywhere close to being accurate, there has been a massive surge of illegal immigration from Mexico alone that has been covered up by the Administration and most media outlets. The complete suspension of enforcement and all of the sundry amnesties, particularly for relatives of the millions of Mexican American citizens and LPRs, has likely encouraged hundreds of thousands more to either cross the border or come here on tourist visas and disappear into the population. This seems to jive with reports of a new border surge this summer.
Of course, it’s hard to imagine that there were 600-800k illegal aliens from Mexico alone last year. As Camarota demonstrates in table 1 of his report, the margin of error in the CPS for Mexico is about ±200,000 (both the start date and end date), which could theoretically mean there are 400,000 fewer Mexican immigrants than indicated in the survey. Nonetheless, it’s very possible that upwards of 400,000-500,000 illegal aliens entered the country from Mexico.
While we are painfully aware of the epidemic of 360,000 known criminal aliens roaming the streets, what is less evident is how many new illegal immigrants are arriving because of the public incentives that are being made to illegal aliens and their relatives.
Why this Matters
The reason this report is so important is that we have very little data from this administration that can be used to accurately measure the damage of his dismantlement of our immigration enforcement over the past two years. While we are painfully aware of the epidemic of 360,000 known criminal aliens roaming the streets, what is less evident is how many new illegal immigrants are arriving because of the public incentives that are being made to illegal aliens and their relatives.
The last year of full administrative data on legal immigration is 2013 and the last year of full data on illegal immigration is 2011. If there is a massive surge of illegal immigration – over and beyond the tidbits reported in the conservative media – we will not find out for quite some time.
At that point it will be too late to stop the flow and we will be entreated to the same sanctimonious arguments in favor of granting yet another wave of illegals rights that Americans enjoy. Armed with this report, it’s time for Congress to do some digging and add this as reason number 12 million to defund Obama’s amnesty, lest we be saddled with yet another endless wave of illegal immigration. The numbers I cited in the June report are slightly higher than those used in the CIS report. My report relied on the American Community Survey (ACS) projections from the Census, which estimated a foreign born population of 43.3 million for 2015. CIS uses the monthly data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to get the most up-to-date monthly figures. The ACS always has higher numbers because it is a broader measure. It includes those in institutions (prisons and nursing homes), is broader in scope and uses more honed in methodological weightings based on more than just the preliminary weights used in CPS. When the ACS releases the actual hard number of foreign born for 2015, the number will likely be higher than their projection of 43.4 million.  In order to isolate the likely evidence of this massive surge in illegal immigration, it’s important to first note that there are two parallel ways of measuring immigration statistics and trends.
Most of the number I usually cite, and most of the general headline figures come from hard data of green cards or non-immigrant visas, such as student visas or worker visas, issued by DHS. It’s a measure of admissions per year or over a period of time. For example, the commonly used figures of 1 million immigrants per year, 886,000 foreign students, 700,000 guest workers, all come from hard data of admissions either from DHS or the State Department.
The other way of measuring immigration growth is to use survey data calculating the existing population of immigrants. When the Census makes their population estimates and projections, along with their immigration reports, they are using either their in-house American Community Survey (ACS) or the Current Population Survey (CPS) together with the BLS, which is published monthly and used to measure unemployment, health insurance rates, poverty rates, etc. For immigration purposes, the surveys show us how much net growth there has been in the foreign-born population – taking into account people who die or return home to their country of origin for any number of reasons. It also picks up on the most recent trends up to the past month as opposed to lagging DHS data.
The DHS data is helpful when looking for hard numbers on specific categories of immigration, differentiating between the number of green cards and non-immigrant visa categories, and isolating the number of people granted legal status relative to the broader immigrant population which includes illegal immigrants. The census data is useful in measuring the actual growth of the immigrant population on net, and because the CPS is published every month and the DHS data is 1-2 years old (and too categorized to pick up on recent trends), it is helpful in picking up the most up-to-date trends. In FY 2014, the most recent fiscal year with available data, just 61,520 Mexicans were new arrivals who were issued immigrant visas. http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/AnnualReports/FY2014AnnualReport/FY14AnnualReport-TableIII.pdf  Also, there is one other caveat in order. There appears to be a growing trend of legal Mexican immigrants who left the country during the recession and are now returning. In a phone interview, Camarota explained to me that a number of “entering cohorts” appear to be increasing over time. For example, the number of people who say they moved to the U.S. between 2000-2002 has grown just from the 2014 survey to the 2015 survey. The only way that can happen is if a number of original immigrants who left during the economic downturn are now returning. It is likely that up to 100,000 of these individuals could partially fill in the gap between the likely number of new legal visas issued and population growth picked up by the census. But at the same time it’s likely that a number of illegal aliens who previously left the country are also returning.