This June marks the second annual Immigrant Heritage Month, when Americans celebrate their immigrant roots and tell their families’ stories of sacrifice and contribution. Woven together, these stories form the backbone of the United States. To mark Immigrant Heritage Month, here are 10 things you need to know about immigrants today:
- There are 41 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States. Together, this group makes up 12.9 percent of the overall population. This percentage is still well below the 1890 high point for immigration, when 14.8 percent of the population was foreign born.
- The majority of the foreign-born are from Latin America and Asia, with a small number arriving from Europe and Africa. As of 2013, roughly 52 percent of U.S. immigrants were born in Latin America, close to 30 percent in Asia, 11.6 percent in Europe, and 4.4 percent in Africa.
- Latinos and Asian Americans are a growing segment of the American electorate. In 2012, Latinos comprised 11 percent of eligible voters, with Asian Americans making up 6 percent. By 2024, these two groups are expected to rise to 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
- Across the country, there are over 904,000 LGBT adult immigrants. Of these immigrants, 30 percent, or 267,000, are undocumented.
- Immigrants play a significant role in the U.S. economy. Studies have found that immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to start and own businesses, and U.S. immigrants or their children have started 40 percent of Fortune 500 businesses.
- There were 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the United States as of January 2012. This is a decline from the estimated population of 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in 2007. Additionally, 16.6 million people live in mixed-status families that contain both authorized and unauthorized family members, including 5.5 million American-born children.
- As of March 2015, close to 750,000 people have applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and 665,000 people have had their applications approved. DACA has significantly and positively affected the lives of those who have received the temporary status: A Harvard University study found that 60 percent of DACA beneficiaries reported obtaining new jobs and 45 percent reported increased wages. Additionally, 57 percent of DACA beneficiaries have obtained a driver’s license, giving them more mobility and flexibility to help support both themselves and their families.
- An additional 5 million parents and DREAMers will receive temporary work permits and relief from deportations under the deferred action programs. The 2012 introduction of DACA, the 2014 DACA expansion, and the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, program will keep families together and give piece of mind to millions of people across the country. Nearly 3 million of those eligible are from Mexico and Central America, with an additional 630,000 from Asia.
- The deferred action programs will significantly boost the U.S. economy. Over the next 10 years, the U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, will increase by an estimated cumulative $230 billion. As the economy grows, Americans will also see their incomes increase by a cumulative $124 billion over a decade, and an average of 29,000 jobs will be created per year for all Americans.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. If the deferred action directives were to be fully implemented, state and local tax revenue would increase by an estimated additional $845 million a year.
Immigrants are an important part of the U.S. economy and American society. To supercharge these contributions, the DACA expansion and DAPA program—which are both currently held up in the courts—need to move forward in order to provide a temporary but much needed sense of relief for millions of American families. Ultimately, Congress must pass a permanent pathway to citizenship. This will add an estimated cumulative $1.2 trillion to the U.S. GDP over 10 years, increase the income of all Americans by an estimated cumulative $625 billion over 10 years, and create as many as 145,000 new jobs per year. Fixing the American immigration system will ensure that all people living in the country can maximize their potential and contribute to a shared American prosperity.
Sanam Malik is the Special Assistant for the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress. Philip E. Wolgin is the Associate Director for Immigration at the Center.
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Philip E. Wolgin
Former Managing Director, Immigration Policy