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15 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants

In this article, we will list 15 states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants. You can skip our detailed analysis on immigration stats and dynamics and go straight to 5 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants

Center for Immigration Studies defines illegal immigrants as all “foreign-born noncitizens who are not legal residents.” Based on this definition and the 14th Amendment of the United States, we have excluded US-born offsprings of illegal immigrants for our research. 

‘Illegal immigrants’ can often be used interchangeably with ‘undocumented immigrants.’ However, the two terms have opposing connotations. People with an unfavorable view about legalizing the status of illegal aliens use the former, while those with a favorable opinion use the latter term. The difference in these connotations represents the polarity of American political leadership regarding US immigration policy

This polarization of the US society and politics regarding the status of illegal immigrants seems to hurt their population. The illegal immigrant population in the United States has seen a decline from 2011 to 2019. 

Republicans believe that the US Economy bears significant costs because of illegal immigrants. The next section of this article will explore how much illegal immigrants cost the United States. 

How much do illegal immigrants cost the United States? 

On 27th January 2019, Donald Trump tweeted that the cost of illegal immigration so far (this year) has been $18,959,495,168. While this figure seems exaggerated, it does raise the question of the cost of illegal immigrants to the United States. Those wishing to settle in a state with a high percentage of illegal immigrants will be concerned with this question because it affects the labor market. 

It is challenging to calculate the exact impact of undocumented immigration on the US economy. However, independent nongovernmental organizations frequently publish studies that estimate these costs. Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - a nonprofit and anti-immigration organization, recently published a study that estimates the cost of illegal immigration to be $150.7 billion. According to the study, the total federal expenditure on illegal aliens is $66.4 billion. It also claims that this expenditure has increased by 45 percent since 2017. The study also claims that illegal aliens contribute about $31 billion in taxes.  

While the figures above are alarming, organizations that favor undocumented immigrants believe that citizenship for them would boost US economic growth. The Center for American Progress (CAP), a public policy research and advocacy organization, conducted a study to assess the impact of the legalization of illegal immigrants on the US economy. It claims that legal citizenship of all undocumented immigrants would boost US GDP by $1.7 trillion over 10 years. It also claims that such a measure would create 438,800 new jobs in the same period. 

Whether pathways for legal citizenship for illegal immigrants would be created or not, remains to be seen. What is clear for now, however, is that their existence would remain significant in states like California, which has the highest percentage of illegal immigrants. Another point of clarity is regarding the nature of jobs illegal immigrants generally pursue, as the majority is restricted to precarious job opportunities. 

What is the profile of illegal immigrants in the United States? 

Mexicans traditionally represented the majority of illegal immigrants in the United States. However, their share is declining. By 2017, they declined to less than half of the US illegal immigrant population. So what does the illegal immigrant population of the United States now look like? 

As of 2019, the total illegal immigrant population of the United States was estimated to be around 11 million by Migration Policy. Mexicans represented 48 percent of this population. Illegal migrants from El Salvador and Guatemala constituted 7 percent each. Indians represented 5 percent of the total illegal immigrant population of the United States in 2019. 

The age group 35-44 represented the highest fraction of this population at about 28 percent. 16 years and under age group constituted the smallest fraction at about 5 percent. 46 percent of the illegal immigrants were women. 

The highest fraction (21 percent) of illegal immigrants worked in the construction industry. 16 percent worked in accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation. It is worth noting that only 4 percent of illegal immigrants participating in the labor force were unemployed. Despite a considerable employment rate of the participating labor force, 43 percent of illegal immigrants remained below 200% of the poverty level.

Which state has the highest number of illegal immigrants? 

California has the highest number of illegal immigrants. According to our estimates, more than 3 million illegal immigrants live in California. They have a considerable impact on California’s labor market, as they make up one in ten workers in California.

Which state has the lowest number of illegal immigrants? 

West Virginia has the lowest number of illegal immigrants. We estimate that 5000 illegal immigrants live in west virginia, making them 0.28% of its population. It is worth noting that illegal immigrants comprise less than 14% of the total immigrant population of West Virginia. 

Without further ado, let's head over to the list of the states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants.

15 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants
15 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants

Methodology 

We ranked 15 states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants based on the latest available estimates. Our estimate of illegal aliens in the state was based on two sources. The first source was 2021 illegal aliens by state estimates from ‘The Federation for American Immigration Reform,’ a non-governmental organization. The second source was the 2019 unauthorized immigrants by state estimate by ‘The migration policy institute,’ a leading institute in the field of migration policy. For our estimates, we relied on the average of these two data sources. 

Our state-wise population estimates considered two data sets from the United States Census Bureau. The first was the population estimate by state in 2021. The second data set was the population estimate by the state in 2019. Our population estimate by state is based on the average of these two data sets. 

Finally, we divided our estimates of illegal aliens by the total population to curate our list of the 15 states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants.

15 States with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants  

15 - Washington 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 3.68%

Washington State lies in the Western part of the United States. It is the eighth-largest state in the United States, with an area of 71,362 square miles. It is surrounded by Idaho to the east and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north. To the west of Washington State lies the Pacific Ocean. The capital city of Washington is Olympia, with a population of about 56,000.

There is a considerable presence of illegal immigrants in Washington, as one in twelve children live with at least one undocumented immigrant. We estimate that 296,000 illegal immigrants live in Washington. Illegal immigrants constitute 3.68% of the total population of Washington state. 

14 - Connecticut

Illegal immigrants percentage: 3.90%

Located in the northeastern corner of the United States, Connecticut is the home to more than 3.5 million people. It is the 48th state of the United States in terms of total area. However, it is one of the most densely populated states. It borders Massachusetts in the north, Rhode Island in the east, and New York in the west. The capital of Connecticut is Hartford, with a population of around 120,000. 

Around 140,000 illegal immigrants live in Connecticut. 76% of illegal immigrants in Connecticut participate in the labor force, with a 69% employment rate. Illegal aliens account for  3.90% of Connecticut’s population. 

13 - Virginia 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 3.90%

Virginia lies on the Atlantic coast. It is a southeastern state of the United States. Toward the northeast, it is bordered by Maryland, and the Atlantic Ocean is present in the southeast. On the south of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee are located. The capital of Virginia is Richmond, with an estimated population of 226,604 people. 

An estimated 335,000 illegal immigrants live in Virginia, with 53% living at or above 200% poverty rate. The illegal immigrant population of Virginia makes up 3.9% of its total population. 

12 - Hawaii

Illegal immigrants percentage 3.98%

Hawaii is the 50th constituent state of the United States. It is a group of volcanic islands located in the central pacific ocean. 2397 miles north of Hawaii lies San Fransisco and California is 5293 miles to the east. Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, with a population of 345,000, 

Hawaii has an illegal immigrant population of 57,000, 61%  of which belong to Asia, according to Migration Policy. Illegal immigrants make up 3.98% of Hawaii's population. 

11 - Georgia

Illegal immigrants percentage: 3.98%

Georgia is the 4th largest US state in terms of total area. It is surrounded by Appalachian mountains in the north and the Atlantic coast in the southeast. The capital of Georgia is Atlanta, with a total population of 496461. Nearly 48% of Georgia’s illegal immigrant population belongs to Mexico. According to our estimates, a total of 426,500 undocumented immigrants live in Georgia, making up 3.98 %  of its population.  

10 - Illinois 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 4.15%

Located in the midwestern region of the United States, Illinois is home to more than 12 million people. Wisconsin borders it to the north and Indiana to the east. The capital of Illinois is Springfield, with an estimated population of 113,394. 68%of the Illegal immigrant population in Illinois is employed according to Migration Policy. Nearly 526,500 illegal immigrants live in Illinois, which accounts for 4.15% of its population.

9 - New Mexico 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 4.32% 

New Mexico is the 5th largest state of the United States in terms of total area. Located in the Southwestern part of the United States, New Mexico is home to 2 million people, 9% of which are immigrants. Colorado is located towards the north of New Mexico, while Oklahoma and Texas are located to the east. The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, with an estimated population of 88,193. New Mexico has an illegal immigrant population of 91,000. They account for 4.32% of the total population. 

8 - Florida 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 4.52%

Florida is one of the states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants. Florida is home to more than 21.5 million people. The capital of Florida is Tallahassee, with an estimated population of 197,102. Florida has an estimated 978,500, 19% of which are of Mexican origin. Illegal Immigrants make up for 4.52% of Florida’s population. 

7 - Maryland 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 4.71%

Maryland is situated in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a relatively small state in terms of total area. However, it is home to more than 6 million people. The capital of Maryland is Annapolis, with an estimated population of 40,687 people. 6% of Maryland’s workforce comprises undocumented immigrants, as noted by American Immigration Council. Maryland’s illegal immigrant population is 225,000, which makes up 4.71% of its population. 

6 - New York 

Illegal immigrants percentage: 4.87%

New York is one of the states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants. It is home to more than 19 million people. Its capital is Albany, with an estimated population of 98,617. Nearly 48 % of New York’s illegal immigrant population is at or above 200% of the poverty level. At around  958,000, 4.87 %  of New York’s population comprises of illegal immigrants.  

Click to continue reading and see the 5 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants.

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Disclosure: none. 15 States with the Highest Percentage of Illegal Immigrants is originally published on Insider Monkey

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