La Plaza

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How many illegal immigrants are there in the United States?

July 25, 2008 |  9:09 am


We are lucky enough to receive many comments here on La Plaza each day, a lot of which are in response to items we post about the issue of illegal immigration.

Occasionally, commenters will post conflicting statements about the number of illegal immigrants living in the United States. In this post, we wanted to take a look at what the actual numbers are.

Due to the fact that illegal immigrants are, by definition, largely undocumented, exact figures are very difficult to obtain. The most up-to-date estimates -– which you can see here -– were calculated using figures from the Department of Homeland Security and the American Community Survey of the U.S Census Bureau.

According to those estimates, there were 11.6 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in January 2006.

The vast majority of those unauthorized immigrants were from Mexico: 57%. An additional 4% were from Guatemala and El Salvador. People from Honduras accounted for 2% per cent of that total.

People from the Philippines, India, Korea, China and Vietnam accounted for the remaining significant groups of unauthorized immigrants.

These figures undoubtedly have changed somewhat over the past year and a half, and we’d be happy to hear from any individuals or agencies that have different estimates.

In terms of the Latino population as a whole living in the United States, it now accounts for more than 15% of the population, according to the Department of Homeland Security in May.

In July 2007, there were 45.5 million Latinos living in the United States, making them the largest minority group in the country.

Photo: A view from behind the old border wall in Tijuana of the Department of Homeland Security's new  fence on the Mexico-United States border. Credit: Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times