20 Mind-Blowing Illegal Immigration Statistics

“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.”

This succinct quote on the topic of illegal immigration comes from Nikki Haley, a US politician dealing with the effects of migration law on a daily basis. A current hot topic as global pressures heat up, illegal immigration statistics tell a story with their numbers – one that is highly emotive for many. 

That’s because the subject is about so much more than numbers and cuts to the heart of who we are. Illegal immigration facts only tell part of a process that is defined by the movement of people into a country, in violation of the laws and processes of that country.

The question of who has the right – legal, economic, or ethical – to control the movement of people is a topic concerning politicans, academics, law experts, and everyday citizens. As escalating environmental and political around the world are displacing more and more people, they are left with little choice but to become unwitting players in a much larger game.

Illegal Immigration Statistics & Facts (Editor’s Pick)

  • The total number of illegal immigrants to the US has declined to 2004 levels.
  • The mix of nations that unauthorized migrants originate from is much more diverse than in previous years – 5.5 million are not from Mexico.
  • 45% of illegal migrants come in on a valid visa and overstay.
  • 40% of illegal migrant households are on incomes above the poverty line.

Illegal Immigration Statistics 2019

1. The total number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States has declined to 2004 levels.

(Pew Research Center)

Back in 2017, immigration statistics showed there were up to 10.5 million unauthorized migrants living in the US, which represented a total proportion of 3.2% of the total U.S population in that year. However, US immigration statistics have revealed a drop of 14%, and numbers are at the same levels previously recorded in 2004.

2. The number of undocumented immigrants deported by the Trump administration is less than under the Obama administration.


Facts about undocumented immigrants from the time of the Obama administration show that there were more than 385,000 deportations each year, reaching a record high of over 409,000 in the 2012 fiscal year before declining to below 250,00 during the end of Obama’s second term. 

According to the latest deportation statistics, the Trump administration has yet to authorize this many actions, starting from a figure of 226,000 in the fiscal year 2017 and so far peaking at only 282,000 for fiscal year 2019.

3. Mexican illegal immigration statistics show that migration from this region is declining.

(Pew Research Center)

Although Mexico is often presumed to be the biggest source of illegal immigration, the number of arrivals from the country has actually been going down since as far back as 2007. Illegal border crossing statistics from 2017 show that Mexicans made up less than half of the recorded incidents, at 47% (compared to 57% ten years earlier in 2007). Both their total numbers and their share of the total number of illegal immigrants in the US have been declining consistently over recent years – from 6.9  million unauthorized immigrants in 2007 to 4.9 million in 2017. 

4. Meanwhile, illegal immigration rates from other countries are rising.

(Pew Research Center)

The total illegal immigrant statistics show that while immigration from Mexico may be declining, it’s actually been rising from other nations, up to a peak of 5.5 million in 2017. Illegal immigration numbers by year from Central America and Asia have been rising since 2007, mainly coming from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. 

In fact, US immigration statistics by year show that there were 1.5 million Central American undocumented migrants in 2007 rising to 1.9 million by 2017. The number from Asia rose from 1.3 million to 1.5 million in the same period. Numbers from South America and Europe decreased during that period, while for other large regions such as the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, there was no significant statistical change.

5. Just six states account for the greatest number of illegal immigrants in the US.

(Rational Middle)

According to the most recent illegal immigration facts and statistics, 57% of unauthorized arrivals are to be found in just six of the States – Texas, California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. What’s more, some states have a declining population of unauthorized migrants – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. Over the same period, the population of illegal immigrants has increased in Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North and South Dakota.

6. Illegal immigration crime statistics show that undocumented migrants are less likely to be imprisoned than native-born Americans.

(Cato Institute)

One assumption that is often thrown about politically as a reason to clamp down on the illegal immigration rate is that undocumented migrants cause crime. However, the available research does not suggest migrants are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than Americans. 

In fact, quite the opposite: 

Although there are different measures that can be used, research shows that undocumented migrants are less likely to be incarcerated. What’s more, this likelihood is actually decreasing over time. One study looking specifically at Texas, a state with high undocumented immigrants statistics, actually revealed a criminal conviction rate 50% below natural citizens.

7. Crime rates from immigrants are not low due to deportation.

(National Bureau of Economic Research)

When it comes to facts about illegal immigration, you might think it’s a story of punishment by deportation. However, studies have shown this isn’t the reason for low crime rates within these communities. Instead, research points to immigrants “self-selecting” so they are either less likely to cause crime to start with or they are deterred from it by the fact that they risk losing a lot if caught.

8. The US Government is lobbying for even greater powers of deportation.

(BBC World News)

In the summer of 2019, the US Government moved to introduce a new, fast-track deportation process that bypasses the immigration courts. New rules allow the authorities to sanction the immediate removal of migrants who cannot prove they have been in the US continuously for more than two years. This builds on the previous process for expedited deportations that only applied to those detained near the border who had been in the US for less than two weeks. 

9. According to illegal immigration stats, around half of all illegal immigration cases are due to overstays on a legal visa.


While political debate most often focuses on unlawful crosses at the US – Mexico border, there is another factor at play when you look at visa overstay statistics. Up to half the individuals illegally in the country have stayed on once their legal visas have expired. 

The thing is, people will come through a port of entry legally but simply not leave. The United States government grants thousands of temporary visas to foreign students, tourists, and seasonal workers, each lasting for a duration from simply a few weeks to several years. Previous reports have put the total share of visa overstayers at as much as 45% of the total illegal immigrant population.

10. The Obama and Trump administrations have parity on the number of migrant deaths.

(Washington Examiner)

The statistics on illegal immigration show that there have been roughly the same number of migrant deaths in both the Obama and Trump administrations. During President Obama’s time in office, ten people were reported to have died in ICE custody during 2009, five during 2012, and 12 in 2016. Similarly, while Trump has been in office, deaths in ICE custody have been reported as ten for 2017 and 12 for 2018.

11. Up to a third of migrants may have faked a family relationship when crossing the border.

(Real Clear Policy)

Following the pilot of a new scheme by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Spring 2019, it was found that nearly a third of migrants tested at the border were not biologically related to the children in their custody. Testing at El Paso and McAllen, Texas found that around 30% of those tested did not have DNA in common with children accompanying them who they claimed were their own. This astonishing information puts an entirely new spin on the illegal immigration rates we see reported in the papers.

12. Overall unauthorized migration numbers are down, but record numbers of family groups are attempting to cross the US border.

(The New York Times)

A snapshot of illegal border crossing statistics by year shows that, while overall migration numbers have declined, a record-breaking 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February 2019 – an 11 year high. This demonstrates that even with harsher new controls on asylum seekers, more combative detention policies and enhanced rates of prosecution, many are not deterred. USA asylum seekers statistics suggest that the US remains a powerful lure for thousands of families living in poverty and violence.

13. Undocumented immigrants pay around $11.64 billion in taxes per year, according to illegal immigration stats.


Another of the so-called facts about immigration you have heard leveraged as an argument against immigration is that migrants don’t pay taxes. 

But that’s not true!

In fact, immigrants collectively pay between $90 and $140 billion each year in taxes, and a recent study found that undocumented immigrants alone pay approximately $11.64 billion in taxes each year. Undocumented migrants across the country pay around 8% of their income in state and local taxes, which is proportionally higher as a percentage of their income than the top 1% of US taxpayers. Everyone is subject to sales taxes on goods and property taxes on their home – and more than half of all undocumented immigrant households file income tax returns using Individual Tax Identification Numbers.

14. Many immigrants are more likely to be vaccinated against disease than US citizens.

(World Health Organisation)

Many people wonder whether undocumented immigrants statistics show that these people have brought diseases such as hepatitis C, tuberculosis, or HIV into the country. But research shows no evidence immigrants have been the source of any modern disease outbreaks in the US mainland. 

Actually, 113 countries, including many in Latin America, have higher vaccination rates among 1-year-olds than in the US. Mexico has a 99% vaccination rate for measles, while Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador sit at 93% – compared to the US vaccination rate of 92%.

15. The number of unauthorized immigrants who have been in the US for a long time is rising.

(Pew Research Center)

One of the facts about undocumented immigrants that don’t get much air is that a rising share of them have been in the US for more than a decade. Around two-thirds or 66% of illegal migrant adults, have spent a decade on American soil, up from 41% in 2007. As of now, unauthorized immigrant adults had lived in the US for a median of 15.1 years. So, it appears that once they gain entry to the country, they’re here to stay for good.

16. Nearly 8 million US jobs are dependent upon illegal immigrant activity.

(UCLA North American Integration and Development Center)

Looking at the cost of illegal immigration statistics, we have to take into account economic productivity. Nearly every dollar earned by illegal immigrants is spent immediately, and the average wage in the U.S is $10.25/hour with an average of 34 hours per week. This means that around 8 million jobs in America are dependent on economic activity produced by unauthorized migrants to the US.

For these reasons, immigration law jobs are imperative and are of paramount importance for the economic well-being of America.

17. Statistically, most illegal immigrants are not refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

(Pew Research Center)

Since the inauguration of the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, around 3 million refugees have been rehomed on US soil. Although this is more than any other country, it still only accounts for a small slice of the total immigrant population. If we look at US  immigration statistics by year, we can see that a total of 22,491 refugees were resettled in 2018. The largest origin group was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by Myanmar (Burma), Ukraine, Bhutan, and Eritrea. Among those refugees, 16% are Muslims and 71% are Christians. More than a quarter of this total yearly settlement were homed in Texas, Washington, Ohio, and California.

18. Far less immigrant apprehensions take place at the US – Mexico border each year.

(Pew Research Center)

The Мexican illegal immigration statistics tell us that numbers of migrants stopped at the US – Mexico border is actually declining year on year. Back in 2006, more than one million apprehensions took place at the border, but by 2018 that had fallen to 396,579. Detention of migrants from Central American has actually exceeded those from Mexico for the third year

in a row, and Mexicans have not made up a large majority of border patrol apprehensions since 2014.

19. Many migrant households have economically successful households, especially in East Coast states.

(Migration Policy Institute)

Through employment and lengthening ties to the US, many unauthorized immigrants have actually become economically successful. 40% have achieved household incomes of at least twice the poverty level. The states where illegal immigrants are most likely to have an income above the poverty level are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia.

20. Most illegal immigrants speak good English.

(Pew Research Center)

It might come as a surprise, but immigration statistics also reveal most migrants can speak English very well. The longer immigrants have lived in the US, the greater the likelihood of them being proficient in English. But even among those who have been living Stateside for five years or less, 45% are proficient, with 56% of those who have lived in the US for 20 years or more being proficient. Illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (73%) and the Middle East (61%) have the highest rates of English proficiency.

Illegal Immigration Statistics - photo


So, what should we really think about illegal immigration facts? 

It’s clear that the average person’s idea of facts about immigration doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. With the total numbers of incoming unauthorized immigrants steadily declining, it’s not quite the opening of the floodgates depicted in certain parts of the media. 

In contrast, we are seeing much more diverse nationalities, a huge percentage of which arrive legally but overstay their visa, go on to settle in a handful of states for a long time span, and are generally better educated, more competent English-speakers and healthier than we may be led to believe.

The bottom line is:

With deportations down, the issue of immigration, although politically complex, could be more of a cipher and a symbolic issue than anything else. Knowledge of all the latest illegal immigration statistics can help us make more informed political and legal decisions.