“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.”

This succinct quote on the topic of illegal immigration comes from Nikki Haley, a U.S. politician dealing with the effects of migration law on a daily basis. Illegal immigration is most certainly a hot topic as global pressures heat up. What's more, illegal immigration statistics tell us a story with their numbers — the story that is highly emotive for many. 

That’s because the subject is not solely about numbers — instead, it raises questions that cut to the heart of who we are. Following this, illegal immigration facts reveal the complexities of entering a country in violation of that country's laws.

The question of who has the legal, economic, or ethical right to control immigration is concerning politicians, academics, law experts, and everyday citizens. As escalating environmental and political issues worldwide are displacing more and more people, migrants are left with little to no choice but to become unwitting players in a much larger game.

Illegal Immigration Statistics & Facts (Editor’s Pick)

  • An almost 50% decline in alien apprehensions was reported in August 2020.
  • 75% of U.S. citizens affirmed that illegal immigrants can stay in the country legally if they meet certain requirements.
  • 45% of illegal migrants enter with a valid visa and overstay.
  • The number of unauthorized migrants living in the U.S. has declined by 14% and reached 2004 levels.
  • The countries unauthorized migrants originate from are much more diverse than in previous years — 5.5 million migrants are not from Mexico.
  • 40% of illegal migrant households have incomes above the poverty line.
  • Illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East have the highest rates of English proficiency — 73% and 61% respectively. 

 U.S. Illegal Immigration Statistics 2020

1. As of August 2020, the number of alien apprehensions reported by the U.S. Border Patrol reduced by almost 50%.

During the fiscal year 2019, America’s largest federal law enforcement agency apprehended a total of 859,501 illegal migrants. However, these illegal immigration numbers were cut down to almost half (349,140) by the end of August 2020. The significant reduction can be attributed to the massive decline of individuals moving to the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March.  

2. 75% of Americans agree that illegal immigrants can stay in the country legally provided that they meet certain requirements.

The majority of polled U.S. citizens showed a positive response to the question of how undocumented settlers should be dealt with. Three-fourths of the surveyed participants attested that if these illegal migrants can meet specified requirements, they should be allowed to stay.  

3. Current illegal immigration statistics present that a total of 147,866 immigrants to the U.S. have been repatriated under the rapid-expulsion proceedings since March 2020.

In late March, the Trump administration issued emergency health orders, also known as Title 42, which allowed the CBP to expel migrants to their country of last transit. The emergency measures aimed to prevent a greater surge of coronavirus by reducing the number of captives in crowded border cells. 

Staggering Illegal Immigration Statistics 2019

4. The total number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. has declined by 14% and reached 2004 levels.

In 2017, immigration statistics showed that there were up to 10.5 million unauthorized migrants living in the U.S., accounting for 3.2% of the total U.S. population. That said, U.S. immigration statistics have also revealed a 14% drop in the number of unauthorized migrants. What’s more, the numbers are now at the levels previously recorded in 2004.

While political debates most often focus on trespassing the U.S.–Mexico border, there is another factor at play when you look at visa overstay statistics. Half of the individuals staying in the U.S. illegally proceeded to live in the country once their legal visas had expired. 

The thing is, people come through a port of entry legally but then not leave when the time comes. The U.S. government grants thousands of temporary visas to international students, tourists, and seasonal workers, each lasting from a few weeks to several years. That said, according to the stats at our disposal, many opt for staying in the country once their visa expires despite numerous repercussions they will most likely face. 

6. The number of migrant deaths under Trump’s administration is on par with that under Obama’s.

Statistics on illegal immigration show that the same numbers of migrant deaths have been recorded under both the Obama and Trump administrations. During Obama’s presidency, 10 people were reported to have died in ICE custody in 2009, 5 in 2012, and 12 in 2016. Similarly, while Trump has been in office, deaths in ICE custody were reported as 10 in 2017 and 12 in 2018.

7. A record-breaking 76,000 migrants crossed the U.S. border without authorization in February 2019.

Illegal border crossing statistics by year show that, while overall migration numbers have declined, a record-breaking 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February 2019 — an 11 year high. It demonstrates that despite strict asylum requirements and detention policies, as well as enhanced rates of prosecution, many are not deterred. The U.S. asylum seekers statistics suggest that the country remains a powerful lure for thousands of families living in poverty and violence.

8. Nearly 8 million U.S. jobs are dependent upon illegal immigrant activity.

Looking at the cost of illegal immigration statistics, we have to take into account economic productivity. Nearly every dollar earned by illegal immigrants is spent immediately. It is important to note that the average wage in the U.S is $24.81/hour, with an average of 38.6 hours of work per week. That means that around 8 million jobs in the U.S. are dependent on the economic activity of unauthorized migrants.

For these reasons, immigration law jobs are imperative and are of paramount importance for the economic well-being of the country.

9. Immigrant apprehensions at the U.S.–Mexico border fell to 396,579.

Мexican stats on illegal immigration tell us that the number of migrants stopped at the U.S.–Mexico border is actually declining each year. In 2006, more than 1 million apprehensions took place at the border, but that number fell to 396,579 by 2018. Detention of migrants from Central America has actually exceeded that from Mexico for the third year in a row.

Illegal Border Crossing Statistics

10. In April 2020, illegal crossing of the U.S. southern border plummeted by 50%.

Barely a month after the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of unauthorized border crossings, particularly in the southern part of the U.S., has dramatically dropped. From 34,064 in March, the number of detained migrants peaked at 16,789 in April. The decline is a result of the reinforced emergency public health policy aimed to circumvent traditional immigration processes and promptly ban expatriates.

11. Mexican illegal immigration statistics show that illegal migrants from Mexico account for 47% of the recorded border crossing incidents.

Although Mexico is often thought to be the biggest source of illegal immigration, the number of arrivals from the country has actually been going down since 2007. Statistics on Illegal immigration in America from 2017 show that Mexicans made up less than half of the recorded incidents — 47%, compared to 57% in 2007. 

Both their total numbers and their share of the total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have been declining consistently over recent years — from 6.9 million unauthorized immigrants in 2007 to 4.9 million in 2017. 

12. Meanwhile, illegal immigration rates from other countries have risen and reached 5.5 million in 2017.

The total illegal immigrant statistics show that while immigration from Mexico may be declining, immigration from other countries is on the rise — up to a peak of 5.5 million in 2017. Illegal immigration numbers by year from Central America and Asia have been rising since 2007, mainly due to the increased immigration from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. 

In fact, statistics on illegal immigrants show that there were 1.5 million Central American undocumented migrants in 2007, rising to 1.9 million by 2017. The number of illegal immigrants from Asia rose from 1.3 million to 1.5 million in the same period. Numbers of illegal immigrants from South America and Europe decreased during that period, while there was no significant statistical change for other large regions, such as the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean.

13. Just six states account for the greatest number of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

According to the most recent illegal immigration facts and statistics, 57% of unauthorized arrivals are detected in six states: Texas, California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. What’s more, some states have recorded a decrease in the number of unauthorized migrants: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. Over the same period, the population of illegal immigrants has increased in Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Facts About Undocumented Immigrants

14. Undocumented migrants are 47% less likely to be imprisoned than the U.S. citizens, illegal immigration crime statistics show.

One assumption that is often thrown about politically to clamp down on the illegal immigration rate is that undocumented migrants cause crime. However, available research does not suggest that migrants are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than Americans. 

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Research shows that undocumented migrants are less likely to be incarcerated. What’s more, this likelihood is only decreasing over time. Undocumented immigrants statistics looking specifically into Texas, a state with high numbers of unauthorized migrants, actually revealed a criminal conviction rate of 56% below that of U.S. citizens.

15. Around 30% of illegal migrants may have faked a family relationship when crossing the border.

Following the pilot of a new scheme by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in spring 2019, it was found that nearly a third of migrants tested at the border were not biologically related to the children in their custody. Testing at El Paso and McAllen, Texas, ICE found that around 30% of those tested did not have DNA in common with children accompanying them, who they claimed were their own. This astonishing information puts an entirely new spin on the illegal immigration rates by year we see reported in the papers.

16. Undocumented immigrants pay around $11.64 billion in taxes per year, according to illegal immigration stats.

Another of the so-called facts about immigration you might have witnessed being leveraged as an argument against immigration is that migrants don’t pay taxes. 

But that’s not true! In fact, immigrants collectively pay between $90 and $140 billion each year in taxes. What’s more, a recent study found that undocumented immigrants alone pay approximately $11.64 billion in taxes each year. 

Undocumented migrants across the country pay around 8% of their income in state and local taxes, which is higher than the effective tax rate of the top 1% of U.S. taxpayers. On top of that, more than half of all undocumented immigrant households file income tax returns using Individual Tax Identification Numbers.

17. 66% of unauthorized immigrant adults have been in the U.S. for a long time.

One of the facets of illegal immigrants statistics that don’t get much air is that most undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. for more than a decade. Around two-thirds of unauthorized immigrant adults have spent a decade on American soil — up from 41% in 2007. As of now, they have lived in the U.S. for a median of 15.1 years. 

18. As many as 30,000 refugees were resettled in the fiscal year of 2019.

Since the launch of the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, around 3 million refugees have been rehomed on U.S. soil. Although this is more resettlement than in any other country, it still accounts for a small slice of the total immigrant population. 

If we look at U.S. immigration statistics by year, we can see that a total of 30,000 refugees were resettled in 2019. The largest origin groups were: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by Burma (Myanmar), Ukraine, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Among those refugees, 16% were Muslims and 79% were Christians. Texas, Washington, New York, and California resettled more than a quarter of the refugees admitted in the fiscal year of 2018.

19. Illegal immigration employment statistics indicate that 40% of migrant households accumulated a household income of at least twice the poverty level.

Through employment and lengthening ties to the U.S., many unauthorized immigrants have actually become economically successful. Around 40% have household incomes of at least twice the poverty level. The states where illegal immigrants are most likely to have an income above the poverty level are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia.

20. Illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East have the highest rates of English proficiency — 73% and 61% respectively.

It might come as a surprise, but illegal immigration statistics in the U.S. also reveal that most migrants can speak English very well. The longer immigrants have lived in the country, the greater the likelihood of being proficient in English. But even among those who have been living stateside for five years or less, 45% are proficient. What’s more, 56% of those who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or more are proficient in English. 

Illegal Immigration Facts and Stats on Deportation

21. As of June 2019, Trump isn’t matching Obama’s deportation numbers with 282,242 deportations carried out under his administration.

Reports on illegal immigration from the time of the Obama administration show that there were more than 385,000 deportations each year in fiscal years 2009–2011, reaching a record high of 409,849 in the 2012 fiscal year before declining to below 250,000 at the end of Obama’s second term (fiscal years 2015–2016). 

According to the latest deportation statistics, the Trump administration has yet to authorize this many actions, starting from a figure of 226,119 in the fiscal year 2017 and peaking at only 282,242 in June 2019.

22. According to statistics on deportation of illegal immigrants, around 400,000 deportees were convicted of illegal entry.

Driving under the influence and illegal entry are the two largest convictions of the foreign nationals who get deported. According to the illegal immigration facts and stats at our disposal, 401,023 deportees were convicted of illegal entry, while 219,256 received DUIs.

23. Texas is leading in the number of deportations that stand at 2,209,600. 

According to the facts about illegal immigration compiled by the World Population Review, the total number of deportations is the highest in Texas. Arizona and California are trailing Texas with 791,950 and 827,420 deportees each. Despite being home to many unauthorized migrants, New York landed at number six on the list of states with most deportees — the state has recorded 103,089 deportations.


It’s clear that an average person’s idea of immigration facts doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. With the total number of incoming unauthorized immigrants steadily declining, it's not quite the opening of the floodgates depicted in certain parts of the media. 

In contrast, we see much more diverse nationalities, a huge percentage of which arrive legally but overstay their visa and go on to settle in a handful of states. What’s more, contrary to common belief, undocumented migrants are generally educated and competent English speakers.

The bottom line is: with deportations down, the issue of immigration, although politically complex, could be more of a cipher and a symbolic issue than anything else. That said, we hope that looking into official illegal immigration statistics will help us make more informed political and legal decisions.