Actual facts about undocumented immigrants in the United States
They pay taxes, make their communities safer, and keep the economy moving. Here’s your antidote to misinformation.
- About 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S.
- The path to citizenship is not a simple one. Millions of people are waiting in the State Department’s so-called “immigration line,” and many wait decades just for a family-sponsored visa.
- Central Americans have been one of the biggest populations crossing into the U.S. over the past several years. Many come here to escape gang violence, extortion, LGBT violence, or domestic abuse.
- Undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Experts think this is because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
- Sanctuary cities — places where local police do not do the work of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers — are safer places to live. That’s because immigrants in those places are less afraid to communicate with police when they witness wrongdoing in their communities.
- There is no connection between undocumented immigrants and unemployment rates among U.S. citizens. Instead, these immigrants often hold down jobs that U.S. citizens don’t want. And recent immigration crackdowns have left those jobs unfilled, leading to problems — such as crops rotting because they weren’t harvested in time.
- Undocumented immigrants and their employers pay roughly $12 billion in payroll taxes each year. That’s because many work under false social security numbers, and their federal taxes are withheld.
- They pay another $12 billion in sales, property, and other taxes.
- Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most government benefits (including the ones they contribute to). They can send their children to public schools and participate in school meal programs, pregnant mothers can receive WIC, and immigrants can receive police and fire services. That’s about it.
- In 2016, 359,520 immigrants were held in U.S. detention centers. There are more than 200 such facilities in the U.S., but many are concentrated in Texas and California.
- At least 60 percent — and possibly more like 73 percent — of those facilities are run by private companies.
- Immigrant detention is a $2.6 billion industry, and it’s growing.
- Immigrant detention centers are essentially jails.
- And yet, being in the U.S. without documentation is a misdemeanor, and a violation of civil law — not criminal law. It’s the legal equivalent of driving without a license.
- Although undocumented citizens aren’t immigrants, they are protected by several parts of the U.S. Constitution, including the right to due process.
- However, undocumented immigrants are held indefinitely as immigration proceedings are postponed for months or years, and they are not guaranteed the right to legal representation. Many must represent themselves. Including children.
- Holding someone in an immigrant detention center costs $134 per day; housing a family costs $319 per day.