This Is What the U.S. Immigration Problem Looks Like

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The United States has always been a melting pot, but some fear it may be boiling over. Surveys show that the U.S. reached a record 41.3 million immigrants in 2013, and a significant portion of both Republicans and Democrats are unhappy with how their respective parties are dealing with it.

Between 2010 and 2013, the country’s immigrant population, both legal and illegal, increased by 1.4 million, according to the Census Bureau’s data from the 2013 American Community Survey. The new total of 41.3 million in 2013 is double what the immigrant population stood at in 1990. As for who’s immigrating, Asian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern immigrant populations grew the most since 2010, according to the Center for Immigration Studies report released this month. And the states with the largest percentage increase of immigrants since 2010 were North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming — up 27, 17, and 14, percent, respectively.

Gridlock aside, members of both parties are dissatisfied with the handling — or lack thereof — of the country’s immigration problem. According to the Pew Research Center, only 37 percent of conservative respondents said the GOP is doing a good job representing their views on illegal immigration, while 56 percent say the party is not doing a good job. A third of Republicans say that their party is too willing to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to gain legal status, and only 18 percent say it has not done a good job because it is not willing enough to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to gain legal status.

While more Democrats are satisfied with their party, still 44 percent say their party isn’t doing a good job on immigration. And Democrats aren’t united on how they think the party is doing, as 63 percent of black Democrats say the party does a good job on illegal immigration, while only 45 percent of Hispanic Democrats and 42 percent of white Democrats say the same.

The problems with immigration don’t lie within people’s party positions — though the gridlock in Congress has prevented progress on this issue. But, considering the influx of unaccompanied minors at the southern border this past year, the issue is more of a humanitarian one, with thousands of children entering the country alone only to be brought in by drug lords.

But studies are also showing how much rampant illegal immigration is clogging up our legal system. According to an analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission by the Pew Research Center, the federal crime of unlawful reentry into the United States has been a driving factor in an increase of sentences in federal courts over the past twenty years. In fact, it accounts for 48 percent of the growth in the total number of offenders sentenced in federal courts over the past two decades. To be charged with unlawful reentry, an immigrant has either entered or attempted to enter the U.S. illegally more than once or attempted to reenter the U.S. after having been officially deported.

Immigration offenses represented 30 percent of offenders in 2012, while they only made up 5 percent in 1992. According to Pew, “[n]early all of those sentenced for unlawful reentry in federal courts received a prison sentence. On average, the sentence length for these offenders was about two years.” And the growth in immigration offenses accounted for 56 percent of the increase in admissions to federal prisons between 1998 and 2010. With no clear path to citizenship and international factors making attempts at illegal immigration seem enticing, the U.S. is settled with more and more federal offenses and money spent on immigrants in the legal system.

Some of those more recent numbers concerning immigration from Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border may have not been factored into the Center for Immigration Studies data (as it only surveyed through 2013 and we saw a huge influx in the past year). What’s interesting is though Mexicans still account for the largest immigrant population in the United States by a lot, with 11.6 million legal and illegal immigrants, the number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. declined 1 percent from 2010 to 2013.

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