8 charts that explain immigration in the United States

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An extended family of 8 people from Colombia are detained by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers after they illegally crossed the border near Hemmingford, Quebec, February 25 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Geoff Robins)

President Donald Trump has promised to crackdown on illegal immigration, including speedier deportations of those with criminal backgrounds, and the construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border.

In February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a series of targeted operations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City. On March 8th, the Department of Homeland Security opened the bidding process for contractors to construct the border wall.

CGTN America created eight charts that analyzed government data to help explain the status of immigration in the United States.

U.S. population in 100 dots

Of the more than 324 million people residing in the United States, an estimated 11.4 million are unauthorized immigrants, according to the a 2012 report by the Department of Homeland Security.

But what does that actually look like?

We looked at DHS and Census data from 2012-2014 to visualize the U.S. population as 100 dots.

All the black dots below represent the native-born population – there’s 86 of them. The blue dots are the immigrants that came to the United States illegally. They make up 3.5 dots.

Naturalized U.S. citizens, immigrants who became citizens by meeting standards in the Immigration and Nationality Act, make up 6 percent of the population or the six dots in red.

Lawful permanent residents such as “green card” holders make up the four green dots.

Resident nonimmigrants make up .5 percent of the U.S. population, or half a dot. These are foreign nationals who were legally admitted into the U.S. for specific, temporary purposes such as international students and temporary workers.

Not pictured: Refugees and asylum seekers who make up only .02 percent of the U.S. population, according to DHS. After one year in the United States, refugees are required to apply for “green card” status, and asylum seekers are permitted to apply for their “green card”.

A report by the Center for Migration Studies indicates that that the number of immigrants here without authorization may be even lower in 2014, at 10.9 million.

Most unauthorized immigrants to the U.S. have lived in the country for more than a decade

Nearly 60 percent of immigrants living illegally in the United States have been here for 12 years or more, and nearly 87 percent have lived in the U.S. since before 2005, a 2012 DHS report found.

Illegal immigration from Mexico is falling

2015 data from DHS shows apprehensions of non-citizens from Mexico are significantly down. According to the Migration Policy Institute, some analysts have attributed this to improved economic conditions in Mexico, less job demand in the United States, increased enforcement and increased use of “different enforcement tactics” at the U.S. border.

Meanwhile illegal immigration from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador has increased. Pew Research says this is due in part to “a surge in unaccompanied Central American child migrants crossing the border without their parents.”


Type of deportation matters

There are two DHS definitions to remember when thinking about deportations: Removals and Returns.

Removals: These are compulsory deportations based on an order of removal from a U.S. immigration judge. When a non-citizen is removed, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents physically escorts the unauthorized immigrant to a “point of departure” at the U.S. border.

Returns: These are voluntary departures. This permits an unauthorized immigrant to leave the U.S. without an immigration hearing ordering them to do so. At the discretion of the U.S. government, an unauthorized immigrant can withdraw an application for admittance without being subject to a five-year ban on re-entry.

Both removals and returns are types of deportations. Here’s a look at both using DHS statistics.


Former President Barack Obama had more removals under his presidency than prior presidents, causing many critics to dub him “Deporter-in-Chief”.

However, he had far fewer returns that previous presidents.

The Migration Policy Institute says: “noncitizen removals increased significantly, while apprehensions and overall deportations both remained far lower than the numbers seen under the Bush and Clinton administrations.”

George Mason University Professor Bryan Caplan, who is also a research fellow at the Libertarian Mercatus Center, estimated that since a removal has harsher penalties than a return, returns should count as .85 percent of one removal. Based on his index, former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II all had more deportations than Obama.

“The real Deporter in Chief was none other than [Obama’s] fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Adjusting for population, no one else even comes close,” Caplan writes.

Criminal and non-criminal deportations

President Trump has said that he will focus on removing immigrants who are not only in the United States illegally, but also constitute threats to public safety. DHS data shows that of all deportations between 2005-2014, 60 percent were for non-criminal reasons, and 40 percent for criminal reasons. Here’s the breakdown by country of origin for nations with 1,000 or more deportations between 2005-2014.

The DHS defines a criminal removal as the deportation, exclusion, or removal of someone who has been charged with a criminal conviction.

6 & 7.
Remembering the past

Between 1880-1889, the majority of people who wanted to be U.S. citizens came from Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Russia.

Scroll through each decade since 1820 using this interactive map that shows which nations had the most number of people receiving lawful permanent resident status.



According to DHS data more people obtained lawful permanent resident status in 1907 than in 2014. The year with the highest-ever number of people who got “green cards” was 1991.



Planes and boats vs. wheels or feet

According Reuters, an internal DHS report has estimated that Trump’s proposed wall could cost as much as $21.6 billion. This is more than half of the 2016 budget for the entire Department of Homeland Security.

But according to data from Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies, visa overstays by air or by sea far exceed those who cross illegally on the southern border by foot or vehicle.

Using DHS data, the Center for Migration Studies found that in 2014, 66 percent of the people in the U.S. illegally did so through an overstay, and entered by plane or by boat. Only 34 percent came by land.

The DHS defines an overstay as someone who was lawfully admitted into the U.S. by air or by sea for a period of time, but remained beyond this period.

Those to come in illegally overland at the border are categorized EWI or Entry without inspection.