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II. Background

The 2000 Census counted 31.1 million foreign-born residents in the U.S., a 57 percent increase over the 1990 Census total of 19.8 million. The total U.S. population, by contrast, rose by just 13 percent over the same period.[1] The Census Bureau defines the foreign-born population as “immigrants (legal permanent residents), temporary migrants (e.g., students), humanitarian migrants (e.g., refugees), and unauthorized migrants (people illegally residing in the United States).”[2]

Six states—California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey—accounted for more than two-thirds of the 2000 foreign-born resident count, with 21.3 million persons. And the immigrant population in these six states is rising rapidly. Their 2000 count of 21.3 million was nearly 50 percent higher than the equivalent 1990 Census count of 14.4 million, for an increase of 6.9 million persons.[3]

Texas, with 2.9 million foreign-born residents, had the third-highest total in the U.S. (after California and New York) and ranked seventh among all states in its percentage of residents who are immigrants, at 13.9 percent. Texas’ foreign-born—71 percent of whom come from Mexico or other Latin American countries—are concentrated in the state’s urban areas. Even so, the Census found foreign-born Hispanics in every Texas county except Loving County.[4]

Texas’ foreign-born population is concentrated in seven council of government (COG) regions (Houston-Galveston, North Central Texas, Lower Rio Grande Valley, Upper Rio Grande, Alamo Area, Capital Area and South Texas). In 2000, these seven COGs accounted for almost three-quarters of the state’s population and 88 percent of its foreign-born residents, 90 percent of whom were from Mexico or other Latin American countries.

Undocumented Immigrants

This report uses the term “undocumented immigrants” to refer to foreign-born individuals who reside in the U.S. who are not U.S. citizens or do not possess permanent resident status. Undocumented immigrants also may be foreign-born individuals who entered the U.S. legally but overstayed the authorized time period.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the U.S. had 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in 2005. Of these, Texas accounted for between 1.4 million and 1.6 million. The Center estimates that 30 percent of the foreign-born population is undocumented.[5]

Recent research detailing the demographic characteristics of undocumented immigrants has reported U.S. totals rather than state-level characteristics. Texas is estimated to have about 14 percent of all undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S.[6]

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that as of March 2005, two-thirds of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. had been in the country for 10 years or less, and 40 percent had been here for five years or less. Adult males composed the largest number of undocumented immigrants. Adults accounted for 84 percent of all undocumented immigrants and males made up 58 percent of all adults.[7]

The largest number of undocumented immigrants came from Latin America, with the majority of those coming from Mexico. In 2005, 6.2 million of the nation’s estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants came from Mexico, or 56 percent of the total (Exhibit 2). From 2000 to 2005, the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico rose by 31.5 percent.[8]

Undocumented immigrants are more likely to work in low-wage occupations that do not require a high level of educational attainment. The largest numbers of undocumented immigrants (31 percent) work in service occupations, followed by construction (19 percent) and production, installation and repair (15 percent). The fewest number of undocumented immigrants work in farming (4 percent), primarily because farm workers make up a relatively small portion of all occupations in general. Farming, however, has the highest concentration of undocumented workers. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all farm workers are undocumented immigrants.

Other fields with large concentrations of undocumented labor include cleaning (17 percent of all workers), construction (14 percent) and food preparation (12 percent).[9]

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