The Only 7 States Where the Illegal Immigrant Workforce Is Growing

Immigrants become American citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Liberty State Park
Immigrants become American citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Liberty State Park. | John Moore/Getty Images

With the election of Donald Trump, the discussion about illegal immigration has become more contentious. And it was already pretty contentious. Though immigration is largely beneficial, there are plenty of concerns that simply haven’t been addressed. People are scared of losing their jobs, terrorist attacks, and seeing their tax dollars spent on people who, they believe, shouldn’t be in the country in the first place.

The truth is, very few (if any) Americans are going to lose their jobs to undocumented workers. It’s much more likely that big businesses will use legal loopholes to import cheaper labor — something that is widely unknown or ignored by many Americans. Illegal immigration has also largely reversed over the past eight years. Pew Research Center recently released a report detailing the declines and increases in the undocumented population, and as this chart shows, overall growth has stalled and reversed.

The stabilization of illegal immigration over the past several years
The stabilization of illegal immigration over the past several years | Pew Research Center

Using data between 2009 and 2014, Pew was able to look for trends in the immigrant population. According to the report, “there were 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. working or looking for work in 2014, making up 5% of the civilian labor force.” But when you look beyond national trends and to the state level, there are some clear differences:

“From 2009 to 2014, when the number of unauthorized immigrant workers was stable, eight U.S. states – Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina and Rhode Island – had statistically significant declines in the number of unauthorized immigrants in their workforces,” the report said.

Conversely, seven states had increases in their undocumented populations. From Pew’s report, here are those seven states.

1. Washington

The Olympic Mountains seen from the Seattle waterfront
The Olympic Mountains are seen from the Seattle waterfront. | Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Central and eastern Washington are widely rural and agricultural. That means there are plenty of opportunities for immigrant workers, both documented and undocumented, to find work. Particularly in Washington’s central corridor, where production of apples, cherries, and hops are economic staples.

2. Utah

The Salt Lake City, Utah skyline
The Salt Lake City, Utah skyline | Garrett/Creative Commons

You don’t typically think of Utah when discussing immigration patterns, but it’s another largely rural state with a growing economy. It’s also very conservative, which makes immigration a hotter topic than in, say, liberal Washington state. But evidently, the undocumented workforce is growing nonetheless.

3. Minnesota

A fan holds a sign during a Minnesota Vikings football game
A fan holds a sign during a Minnesota Vikings football game. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Like Utah, Minnesota seems like an odd choice for undocumented workers. It doesn’t border the Pacific or Atlantic oceans and isn’t adjacent to Mexico. But it shares a similar profile to other states on this list: largely rural, with a growing population and economy.

4. Louisiana

Dusk falls over Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, 11 July 2006, almost one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. For tourists strolling through the French Quarter it's easy to forget that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans a year ago. The beignets are fresh, trinkets and designer clothes are artfully arranged in shop windows, and hurricanes are spinning in the bars on Bourbon Street. But while the music, food and good times have come back, the crowds have not and the city is struggling to make ends meet while its main industry remains crippled. With more than 10 million visitors a year, tourism was once a 5.5 billion dollar industry in New Orleans, accounting for 40 percent of the city's tax revenues and employing 85,000 people. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, Louisiana | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The South has seen some significant increases in its illegal immigrant populations. Though states like Alabama have taken some pretty big steps to curb that growth, Louisiana is still seeing spikes. Opportunities in industries like agriculture, construction, and hospitality are likely catalysts.

5. Virginia

A strip of beach in Virginia
A strip of beach in Virginia |

Lawful and unlawful immigration to the state of Virginia has been on the rise for several years. As a response, lawmakers have been floating some ideas for dealing with it. Regardless, the state’s share of undocumented workers is going up.

6. Pennsylvania

People visit the Liberty Bell n Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
People visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

North of Virginia, Pennsylvania is another state with increasing immigrant populations. Yet another state with some urban cores and a great deal of rural, agricultural areas, Pennsylvania’s an attractive place for new arrivals to find work. This may have played a part in the state’s swing from blue to red during the 2016 election.

7. New Jersey

A New Jersey beach at sunset
A New Jersey beach at sunset |

New Jersey is the final state that Pew points out for having an increased number of undocumented workers. It’s a small state, with opportunities for work more than likely popping up in and around urban centers like New York City.

Read more about Pew Research’s dive into America’s illegal immigration issues here.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: