As lawmakers in Florida push for immigration-enforcement bills for fear of our state being invaded by a new wave of "aliens," new data shows that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has remained stable over the past years. Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicate that the number of illegal immigrants in the country has remained unchanged at roughly 11 million since 2009. The report also shows that three-fifths of those who are here have been in the U.S. for more than a decade, and that their families have produced approximately 5.5 million children. Around 1 million of those children are unauthorized immigrants, while the remaining 4.5 million are native-born U.S. citizens who have at least one authorized parent.
Reports show that unauthorized immigrants represent about 28% of the total foreign-born population. The rest of the immigrant population is comprised by about 37% who have become naturalized U.S. citizens, and an estimated 31% who are legal permanent residents in this country. The data used by the Immigration Policy Center report indicates that Florida has the third highest unauthorized population in the country, which is estimated to be at 825,000. The figures also show that the current unauthorized population accounts for 5% of the U.S. labor force, or roughly 1 out of every 20 workers. Affirming their worth, the report underscores that "[u]nauthorized immigrants who are already in the country have become integral to U.S. businesses, communities, and families."
If our lawmakers use these new figures to drum up support for their immigration-enforcement agenda, then they are doing so out of malice and are really just missing the point. This report re-affirms the fact that undocumented immigrants make up the fuel that helps power our economy. Through enacting bills that will subvert this economic force, the only significant end they will achieve is a much higher deficit that our already indebted state cannot, and surely will not, be able to cope with.