Immigration-Related Statistics, 1995

By CIS on July 1, 1995


The number of legal immigrants and the number of apprehensions of illegal border crossers decreased in the past year. Yet it seems unlikely that the net increase in illegal immigration will have changed much from our previous estimate of 300,000 per year, and the overall number of immigrant newcomers still amounted to well over one million.

Preliminary data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) show immigrant admissions for Fiscal Year 1994 (FY-94) decreased by about 81,000 — or about nine percent — from FY-93. Not included in this calculation are asylum applicants and the continuing large number of new illegal immigrants. Altogether, the total of new residents in FY-94 is still over 1.2 million, but about 4.9 percent less than in FY-93.

Immigration is rapidly changing the face of the United States. The 1990 census found that over the past ten years the U.S. population grew by about 22.1 million persons — about ten percent. During the same period, the foreign-born population grew by about 5.7 million — over 40 percent. Thus, the increase in the foreign-born population accounted for over one-quarter of the total population increase — not taking into consideration the high undercount of immigrants, especially those who are illegally in the country. The population increase attributable to immigrants also would be significantly higher if their children born in this country were also considered.

Looking toward the future, immigration likely will account for about one-third of all population growth during this decade, if it continues at the current rate. The Census Bureau projects that in the decades ahead, as native-born population growth levels off, a still higher share of population growth will be attributable to immigration.

Congress last increased legal immigration in 1990 (in a measure known as IMMACT-90). This expansion increased the number of visas available in certain family-related and employment preferences. The increase was by over 35 percent. Although IMMACT-90 established a new "cap" on the number of newcomers, admissions still may increase further because the provisions are flexible (see Figure 1). Flexibility in immigration has tended to be unidirectional. Our estimate of total annual immigration is higher than INS data, because the INS includes only regular entries, not irregular entrants such as most asylum applicants and illegal aliens.

An example of the elasticity in the law is the agreement with Cuba reached last year to admit a minimum of 20,000 Cuban immigrants each year. By using the Attorney General's parole power, this nearly doubled the rate of Cuban admissions without any change in the law. Another example may be seen in the use of the skilled professional category to grant permanent resident status to Chinese students who, after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China, at first received permission to stay here temporarily.

This year's data reflect an encouraging contraction of some special programs that have characterized our patchwork immigration policy. Still, the total level of entries puts in question the U.S. Census Bureau's assumption that net immigration will average 880,000 per year, including 200,000 illegal newcomers. That assumption was undermined two years ago when the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) increased its official estimate of the net level of illegal newcomers from 200,000 to 300,000 — up 50 percent. This indicates that the Census Bureau's middle level U.S. population projection of 393 million at mid-century should be increased. A more likely projection for the year 2050, unless illegal and legal immigration are significantly reduced, is for a population of at least 400 million. From 250 million people in 1990, we thus are likely to add 150 million during the lifetime of today's young people. Those 150 million people are as many as the country's total population in 1950.

The INS reports that apprehensions of illegal aliens decreased by 17.5 percent in FY-94, ending the upward trend begun in FY-89. The drop in apprehensions, to about 1.1 million last year, reflects the success of Operation Hold the Line at El Paso, Texas as well as a drop at San Diego, California, even before the launching there of Operation Gatekeeper at the start of FY-95. Whether this indication of greater deterrence of illegal border crossing will continue is in doubt, however, due to a surge in apprehensions at the start of 1995 following Mexico's currency devaluation.

Refugee admissions also declined in FY-94, by 5.6 percent to 112,573, as some of the special resettlement programs waned. Asylum applications continued to increase, however, by 2.4 percent to 147,605. Despite our continuing admission of refugees and people claiming asylum, the number of refugees and displaced persons around the globe is still growing.

Some fiscal cost data related to immigration are introduced in this Backgrounder. Although there is no definitive cost estimate, it is important to note the increasing recognition that immigrants in general — and especially refugees and illegal immigrants — represent a significant fiscal drain on national, state and local budget

One other immigration statistic has become newsworthy over the past year — the increased number of applications by immigrants to become U.S. citizens. This development is positive, even though the reasons for the increase in naturalization applications may not be laudable in all cases.

The intent of this Backgrounder is to pull together for ready reference the most relevant statistics that define the magnitude of the immigration issues facing the United States. For the most part, the data are taken from official sources. In some cases the numbers are estimates, as is necessary to project future change or to attempt to quantify illegal immigration. Often estimates from different sources will vary widely, and in those cases the estimates used are those that appear most consistent with other related data.

The Center for Immigration Studies trusts that this statistical compendium will prove useful to those who are grappling with the complex issue of immigration policy reform. Comments, suggestions and contributions of data that may be of general interest are welcome. Other selected data will be reported in Immigration Review, the quarterly journal of the Center, as they become available.

Selected U.S. Population Data

U.S. Population: 265,330,000 (July 1995)

The mid-1995 population of the United States is estimated by the Center to be over 265 million. The estimate of the Census Bureau (used previously) understates the population size, especially for the foreign-born. This is nearly three million more people than the Census Bureau's estimated 1994 population and 14.6 million more persons than in the 1990 census (249.4 million).

The current annual rate of increase (about 1.1%) a factor of the nation's birth rate, mortality rate, and net immigration continues the nation's historical upward trend in population growth (see Figure 2). Less than 60 years ago, during the lifetime of many of today's Americans, the population of the country was half of the current level. The population of the United States has quadrupled since 1892, also during the lifetime of a few Americans.

U.S. Foreign-Born Population: 24,340,000 (July 1995)

Estimating the Foreign-Born Share

In 1990 the U.S. census found that about one in 13 residents was foreign born (19.8 million or 7.9%). Allowing for a greater census undercount among the foreign born, especially among illegal immigrants, the actual foreign-born share was more likely about one in 12 (8.1%). Two-fifths of the foreign-born in the census (8 million) were U.S. citizens by naturalization, and three-fifths (11.8 million) were non-citizen residents — both legal and illegal. If the estimated 8.1 percent share of the total population held constant, the number of foreign-born residents in 1995 would be 21.5 million. However, the foreign-born share of the population is not holding constant, it is rising — in the 1980 census the share was only 6.2 percent.

An alternative approach to estimating the current number of foreign-born residents is to use the trend of change. Between the 1980 and 1990 census enumerations, the number of foreign born in the United States rose from 14.1 million to 19.8 (an increase of 5.7 million, or 40%). That represents an average net increase of 3.5 percent per year over the decade as a result of immigration. If that 3.5 percent growth trend is applied to the period since 1990, then the 1995 foreign-born population would be 23.5 million (applying the same rate of increase to the undercount-corrected 20.25 million gives a 1995 estimate of 24 million). However, we know that immigration was increased by provisions of the IMMACT'90 and, therefore, the rate in the 1990s will be higher than the earlier 3.5 percent average rate of increase in the 1980s.

A third approach to estimating the 1995 foreign-born population is to use the Census Bureau's 1993 parameters for its census projection. The Bureau estimates that since 1990 the annual level of immigration is 880,000, about one-third of the annual average U .S. population growth of 2.8 million. The 880,000 is a net figure resulting from immigration of 1,040,000 and emigration of 160,000. The death rate among the resident foreign born (about 13 per 1,000) would further reduce the annual net increase in the foreign-born population to about 870,000. Adding four years of that level of increase to the 1990 census population of 19.8 million foreign born results in a 1995 estimated foreign-born population of 24.2 million. This places the foreign-born share of the U.S. population at 8.9 percent. It should be noted, however, that this estimate of the foreign born is still too low, because its starting point is based on the 1990 census, with its undercount problem. The foreign-born share of the population in 1995 (based on the undercount-corrected 24.34 million estimate) is 9.2 percent (see Table 1).

Projecting to the end of the century on the basis of the current trend, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population will further increase to more than 10 percent. This is a major demographic change from the average of about five percent of U.S. population that was foreign born as recently as the 1960s and 1970s. The rapid change is due to a combination of increased legal and illegal immigration and higher numbers of refugees and asylum applicants.

The current estimated rate of change in the foreign-born population (4.1%) compared with the comparable rate of change for the general population (1.1%) — nearly a 4:1 ratio — reveals why the foreign-born share of the U.S. population has been steadily increasing over recent years and will grow more rapidly in the future, if the current level of immigration is maintained.

Uneven Settlement

The settlement pattern of newcomers to this country has long reflected concentrations of immigrants in certain regions, cities and even neighborhoods. One of the major factors in the current debate over immigration policy and the costs of immigration is the fact that, in addition to their rapidly growing numbers, immigrants tend to concentrate in just a few states. Thus, the expenses for educating young foreign language speakers, for providing English language instruction for adults, for providing medical and social welfare programs, and for the additional infrastructure investment required for a rapidly growing population are borne disproportionately by those heavily-impacted jurisdictions. Yet the states have no control and little influence over immigrant policy or settlement patterns.

The concentration of immigrants is reflected in data on the foreign born from the 1990 census. The top four states of immigrant settlement — which have 32 percent of the nation's population — account for 63 percent of the foreign-born population (see Table 2). Over four-fifths (81%) of the foreign born are located in the top ten states. More than a fifth of California's population and one-eighth of New York's population was foreign born in 1990. Recent immigrant arrival data (from the 1993 INS Statistical yearbook) reflect a similar pattern. Data on the intended residence of 904,252 new legal residents — at least 368,000 of whom were already in the country as non-immigrants or illegal immigrants — identify six states (California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois) as the destination of about seven out of ten (70.5%) of the new residents. This compares with these states' 39.2 percent share of the nation's total population.

Turning to the local level, the 1993 INS data reveal a similar pattern of foreign-born concentration. The Los Angeles and New York Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) were the intended residence of over one-quarter (26%) of the new legal residents. With the addition of the next three MSAs (Chicago, Miami, and Washington, D.C.), that share rises to over 37% of the annual immigrant intake. The pattern of intended settlement in the INS data for FY-93 is almost identical with the foreign-born data reported in the 1990 census, except Washington, D.C. moves into the top ten municipalities in the INS data as the fifth most popular destination.

The shifting pattern of immigrant settlement may be seen by comparing data as recent as the 1960 census with the most recent data. New York had a larger foreign-born population than California in 1960, and the combined share of these two states was less than two-fifths (37.3%) of the total, rather than the nearly half (47.1%) these two states account for now. Florida, now the third most popular settlement state for immigrants, was tenth in 1960. The traditional manufacturing states — Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio — that were, respectively, the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth most popular areas of foreign-born settlement in 1960, now have dropped to sixth, eighth, ninth, and fifteenth.

The 1990 census data on countries of origin of the foreign born are shown in Table 3. Immigrants from Mexico constitute over one-fifth (21.7%) of all foreign-born residents. Again, it should be remembered that this data suffers from an undercount, especially of illegal immigrants, which the "legalization" program mandated by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) revealed to be comprised in large measure of Mexicans. Following Mexico's 4.3 million immigrants, in order of magnitude, were the Philippines (913,000), Canada (745,000), Cuba (737,000) and Germany (712,000). Also accounting for over half a million immigrants were the United Kingdom, Italy, Korea, Vietnam and China. These ten countries account for over half (51.9%) of all foreign-born residents. If the Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong are added to those from the mainland, the Chinese account for 921,000 — making them the second most populous immigrant group.

The Census Bureau data on the foreign-born also reveal the wide variation among nationalities in becoming naturalized U .S. citizens. Included in the data are some illegal immigrants and recent immigrants who are not eligible to become citizens. Nevertheless, that does not explain the great difference in naturalization rates between Hungarians, Germans or Italians, for example, most of whom have become U.S. citizens, and immigrants from countries such as Japan, Iran, Cambodia, Mexico or other Latin American countries — except Cuba — most of whom have retained their foreign nationality. Additional information about naturalization is included in the section on immigration data.

Illegal Aliens

The Center estimates that the number of resident illegal immigrants in 1995, from all sources, is about 5.4 million, or about one-fifth (22%) of the foreign-born population. The INS estimate of the illegal alien population would be about 4.3 million — 20 percent lower. Inasmuch as the INS is using the same estimate as the Center for post-IRCA illegal settlement in the United States (a net increase of 300,000 per year), the difference in the estimates of the 1995 population size is due largely to different estimates of the number of the illegal immigrants at the end of the legalization program. Illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. after 1982 were not eligible for the amnesty, except for certain seasonal agricultural workers. In addition, some illegal immigrants with jobs and established identities did not apply for the amnesty in order to avoid the risk inherent in identifying themselves to the authorities. Estimates at the outset of the legalization program were that half or more of an estimated four to ten million illegal immigrants would apply. In fact, the illegal population that applied for legalization was slightly above three million.

The INS Statistical Analysis Branch reported to Congress in 1989, after the legalization program had closed, that as of December 1988 the illegal population had been reduced to between 1.5 and three million. The Center concluded that the INS over-estimated the success rate of the legalization program, and the more likely residual number of illegals in 1988 was about 3.4 million, with as many as a third having been ineligible because they entered after the 1982 cutoff date. To the base of 3.4 million illegal residents, the Center added an estimated net increment of 250,000 in 1989 and 1990 and 300,000 per year since then. Additional discussion of the illegal alien population appears in the immigration data section

U.S. Population Projection: 400,000,000 (July 2050)

Since 1989, the Census Bureau has released three projections of U.S. population through the year 2050, most recently in October 1993. In each of these three studies, the Census Bureau increased the likely population size. In 1989, the mid-century projection was for a population of 300 million. In 1992, the estimate was raised to 383 million. The next year, the projection was raised again to 392 million residents. The projections are based on varying assumptions. There are "high," "low," and "middle scenarios." The middle projection is considered the most likely. The middle scenarios are shown in Figure 3 for the last three projections.

The Census Bureau attributed the enormous increase in the 1992 projection to three factors, all of which involved immigration: (A) the 1990 census revealed an increase in the average fertility rate to slightly above replacement level — in part due to the higher fertility of new immigrants; (B) the IRCA provision for deterring illegal immigration through employer sanctions against hiring illegal workers was being circumvented; and (C) the 1990 Immigration Act opened the doors wider to legal immigration. The 1989 "middle" scenario assumed a net annual increase from immigration of 600,000. In the two post-IMMACT-90 projections, net annual increase from immigration is estimated at 880,000.

The Census Bureau now projects the mid-21st century population — during the lifetime of today's young people — at about 392 million. This is an increase of nearly 57 percent above the 1990 census level. And the population still will be rising rapidly. But, an examination of the assumptions used by the Census Bureau in reaching this projection suggests that it is underestimating the influx of illegal immigrants. The Census Bureau, working with the INS, chose a level of 200,000 new illegal immigrants each year in its projection. That estimate is 100,000 lower than the estimate of the Center for Immigration Studies and the current estimate of the INS. In 1994, however, the Census Bureau released a report noting that it is updating both the estimate of illegal immigration and partially offsetting it with a 47 percent higher estimate of annual emigration (out-migration) of the foreign born (from 133,000 to 195,000). A new Census Bureau projection incorporating these changes is scheduled to be released later this year.

In addition, the long-term trend in illegal immigration has been upward — not static — and should continue to increase unless measures to better control the border and enforce worksite screening are adopted and prove successful. Because of these questionable assumptions about legal and illegal immigration levels, the Center foresees a faster population growth rate than is projected by the Census Bureau, one that more likely will reach at least 400 million by 2050.

Immigration's Impact on Population Growth

One approach to measuring the impact of immigration on population growth is to project U.S. population change if there were no further immigration. The Census Bureau prepares a "zero immigration" projection by withholding the estimated net increase of 880,000 new immigrants. That assumption also drops emigration to a level where it would exactly balance newcomers. With zero immigration, the population of the United States would begin to stabilize at about 310 million persons in 2030 (see Figure 4). By contrast, with current large immigration the net effect of new immigrants and their offspring adds an additional 183 million people to the projected "middle" scenario population size in 2050. Only about 53 million are accounted for by the net influx of new immigrants (at 880,000 per year). The additional 130 million are accounted for by the offspring of the new immigrants.

The Census Bureau projection also shows how the demographic face of the United States is changing rapidly in terms of its ethnic/racial composition (see Table 4). The major contributing factors to this change are: (A) the magnitude of immigration's contribution to population growth; (B) the difference between the country's current population ethnic/racial composition and that of current immigrants (see Table 2, Table 5, and Table 6); and (C) the different fertility rates of the ethnic/racial groups. Those groups that have a higher immigration and/or fertility rate will grow proportionately faster. As the Census Bureau first documented in its 1992 population projection, new immigrants generally display higher fertility rates than those prevailing among the general U.S. population.

Selected U.S. Immigration Data

U.S. Immigration: 1,205,770 (FY-1994)

Compared with the Center's calculation of 1.2 million new immigrants in FY-94, the preliminary data to be incorporated in the FY-94 INS Statistical Yearbook records immigration at 799,190. The difference is due to the fact that the INS count does not include illegal immigrants, and its data on refugees and asylees is based on status adjustments — a year or more after entry — rather than on newcomers.


Immigration to the United States in FY-94 reflected a similar country of origin distribution to recent years. The greatest share is from Asia, with immigration from the Western Hemisphere close behind (see Table 5). Immigration from Europe rose slightly this year while overall immigration registered a slight decline. The principal beneficiaries were the Irish, registering a 27 percent increase.

Immigration from all other geographical areas declined. Immigration from Asia declined by 18 percent. Vietnamese immigration dropped by some 31 percent. The decrease from Taiwan was about 30 percent, and for China it was 18 percent.

Although immigration from North America was down by nearly five percent, it was up for the Caribbean (Haiti 31%, Dominican Republic 14%, and Cuba 8%). Central American immigration registered a 29 percent decline.

Adjustments to INS Data

The Center's total immigration figure includes refugee entries, rather than adjustments, it adds the share of new asylum applicants estimated as likely to remain in the United States, and it adds the estimated net level of new illegal immigration (see Table 5). Not included in the total of new immigration for the year, however, is the number who were adjusted to permanent resident status as a result of the 1986 amnesty for illegal immigrants. These people are not included in the annual totals, because they became legal residents as part of a one-time adjustment program for those who had entered over a period of years. Below we explain the components of each of these immigration categories and the change experienced over the last year.

Family-Based Immigration: 498,284 (FY'94)

Family-based immigration includes immigrants sponsored by family members who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The admissions level in FY-94 for family members declined over the previous year by almost 42,000 to just under half a million. This constitutes a decrease of nearly eight percent (see Figure 5). This returned family-related immigration to about the same level as in FY-92.

The parents, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are admitted as "immediate relatives" under this category, without any numerical limitations. There were 250,073 immediate relative immigrants in FY-94, a decrease of some 5,000, or about two percent from the FY-93 level.

Another 226,000 visas are reserved by IMMACf-90 for the adult offspring and siblings of U.S. citizens and the spouses and children of permanent residents; 212,248 were- admitted. This was about 14,000 less than a year earlier, and most of the decline was in the category for spouses of resident aliens.

In addition to this "official" family-based immigration related to the capped preference system and the uncapped immediate relative system, some other family members are admitted under other categories. In FY-94, the other categories included 34,080 family members of immigrants legalized under the IRCA amnesty program and 2,109 other children. The entry category for family members of "legalized" immigrants was begun in FY-92 and ended in FY-94. In the future, family members of the amnesty beneficiaries will have to apply under the same categories as the family of other immigrants.

Altogether, family-related immigrants amount to 55 percent of total INS admissions for the year (excluding illegal immigration and the family members who accompany job-related and refugee immigrants).

Employment-Based Immigration: 123,844 (FY'94)

Employment-based immigration to the United States is subject to a cap, or limit, under IMMACT-90 of 140,000, plus any unused numbers from the previous fiscal year. The nearly 124,000 immigrants charged by INS against this limit in FY-94 were short of the ceiling by more than 16,000.

Another 304 persons were adjusted to resident status outside of this ceiling who entered either as non-immigrants to work as nurses or as accompanying family members of those nurses. This is a major decline from the nearly 2,200 who adjusted to resident status in the nurses program last fiscal year. An additional 139 employees of U.S. firms working in Hong Kong and their families were also admitted.

The comparable number of job-related immigrants in FY-94 was about 25,500 lower than in FY-93. The decrease was over 17 percent (see Figure 6). Of the nearly 124,000 total, over 61,000, or half, were family members accompanying the principal alien. This level of work-related immigration, including accompanying family, represents about 13.7 percent of the 906,000 legal immigrants for FY-94. (Or 15.5% of the 799,000 recorded by the INS.)

This decrease resulted from drops in the categories for: (A) 2nd preference — professionals with advanced degrees (down 15,000); and (8) 3rd preference — skilled workers and professionals (down 11,000). This latter category was used to accommodate adjustment of status for 21,000 Chinese students who were allowed to convert to resident status because of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China (down from 27,000 last year).

Keeping in mind that only about half of those entering under the employment visa category are the workers or professionals per se, rather than their accompanying family members, this means that the share of total immigration dedicated to filling permanent needs of the workplace is less than seven percent. That share would be still smaller if it were compared to the total number of new immigrants (including illegal immigration).

Although the level of employment-related immigration is still a relatively small share of overall immigration, it has more than doubled as a result of IMMACT-90. The number of immigrants in this category was about 58,000 in FY-91.

Humanitarian Immigration: 239,161 (FY'94)

The U.S. provisions for protection of persons fleeing persecution abroad include several categories of admission. The first is the resettlement program for overseas refugees. Although the U.S. Refugee Act adopts an international definition of who is to be treated as a refugee, at present few of the refugees we admit are persons whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified as needing permanent resettlement as a result of being unlikely to ever be able to move back to their homeland. Other admissions in refugee status are persons we have identified on our own as a part of a group whose members may face persecution, such as Jews or Pentecostal Christians in the former Soviet Union or American-Asian children of U.S. servicemen in Vietnam.

Still others arrive in the United States on their own and claim asylum at the port of entry or subsequently while already admitted into the country. Another category encompasses persons who entered the country legally or illegally who request asylum but are found ineligible for that status, but, nevertheless, are not deported or required to depart. This latter category has no status in legislation, but is referred to as "persons residing under the color of law" (PRUCOL). Others have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and receive work permits. Examples of the latter category are persons from El Salvador, Uberia and Somalia. These persons are not usually considered to be immigrants, even though few leave on their own and few have been deported. PRUCOL and TPS statistics do not appear in the INS data and are not included here.

Our data on the FY-94 level of refugee and asylum entries reflects a decline of about 3,400 (down 1.4%). The major drop was in refugee entries (down 5.7%). The INS data on adjustments to residence status — at least a year after entry — were down for both refugees (about 17,000 fewer) and asylees (about 6,000 fewer). However the entry of Cubans was up about 18 percent (see Figure 7).

As a share of total legal immigration of 906,000 for FY-94 (omitting the amnesty program for illegal immigrants), humanitarian entries were about 26 percent of the total. That share is higher than if INS data on refugee and asylum adjustments were used (15.2%), because the INS data do not include most asylum applicants.

Refugees: 112,573 (FY'94)

When the current system of admission of refugees and asylees was established by the 1980 Refugee Act, it was contemplated that the annual intake of refugees (including asylum seekers) would be less than 50,000. However, no ceiling or cap was enacted. Instead, the refugee admission program is regulated by an annual ceiling set by the administration in consultation with the Congress. Since 1989, actual annual admissions have averaged nearly 120,000, well over twice the level contemplated in the 1980 Refugee Act, and the level has never been under 50,000 since the 1980 legislation was enacted (see Figure 8). This current intake level is still very high by historic standards. For comparison, the average intake of refugees between 1982 and 1988 was 71,707.

For FY-94, the refugee admission level decreased by about 7,000 (from close to 119,500 to almost 112,600). This is a further decline from the FY-92 level of over 132,000 (see Table 7) and returns refugee intake to the FY-91 level.

The problem of managing a larger than intended refugee settlement program has been further complicated by the fact that the level of federal funds allocated to support the transition of the refugees to their new life in the United States has not kept pace with the influx of refugees. The concept approved in 1980 was for the federal government to provide three years of support, including cash assistance, medical care, language training, etc. Currently, the federally-funded support services are limited to eight months. The decline in funding, especially relative to the increased admissions level, has been a source of concern to refugee sponsoring organizations and to the state governments that become responsible for providing social services support for the refugees when the diminished federal transitional funds run out.

Asylum: 118,084 (FY'94)

Asylum claimants, who are not subject to any numerical limitation, who undergo no screening process (as do legal immigrants and refugees) prior to entry into the United States and who are not eligible for any federally-funded resettlement assistance program (as are refugees), constitute one of the fastest growing components of immigration. The INS data for last fiscal year reflect for the second year running a higher number of asylum applicants (about 148,000 in FY-94 and about 144,000 in FY-93) than refugee admissions.

The only type of numerical restriction on asylum is the number of asylees who may be adjusted to permanent residence each year. That limit was 5,000 until the 1990 Immigration Act doubled it to 10,000 and provided for a one-time higher level in FY-91 to deal with the backlog (see Figure 9).

Approved asylees have not exceeded the new level since it was adopted, so currently there is no waiting list for adjustment to resident status. However, if new asylum application claims were decided on a current basis, one might develop quickly.

INS data in the Statistical Yearbook report only the number of asylees who are processed successfully through the asylum adjudication system and are then adjusted to residence status. In FY-94, that number was 5,984, despite the fact that this represented only a small share of the annual level of new asylum applications and an even smaller share of the backlog of applicants whose applications have not been decided.

To obtain a realistic view of the number of asylum applicants who join the permanent resident population each year, there must also be an estimate of the number of those who never appear for hearings or do not leave the country even though a decision on their application may be unfavorable. The INS has estimated that roughly 80 percent of asylum applicants will remain as permanent residents — regardless of the outcome of their asylum claim. On this basis, i.e., four-fifths of about 147,600 applications, the number of these new immigrants — not included in INS statistics — was about 118, 100. Some applicants may have entered the United States in earlier years — as non-immigrants or as illegal immigrants — before deciding to apply for asylum as a means of remaining in the country.

As a result of a surge in asylum applications beginning in 1988, the backlog of applicants grew from about 73,000 at the end of FY-88 to about 421,000 at the end of FY-94. The Clinton Administration has acknowledged that the inability of the INS to make timely decisions on asylum claims increases the incentive to use this provision as a back-door approach to immigration. As a result, it has begun a doubling the corps of INS officers screening these cases to deal with the current case level and in the hope of being able to reduce the backlog. As the FY-94 data reveal, however, that objective has not been achieved.

Cubans and Other Programs: 8,395 (FY'93)

In addition to the formal refugee program, there are separate ad hoc categories for Cubans, Indochinese and others whom the Attorney General may parole into the country for residence. Although the persons admitted under these provisions are admitted as if they were asylum applicants, they are counted neither against the asylum adjustment limit nor against the Department of State's refugee program limit. In FY-94, Cubans, currently the major beneficiary of special humanitarian entry legislation, constituted nearly all (8,364) of the almost 8,500 persons admitted in these provisions.

Quasi-Immigrant Humanitarian Categories

In addition to those who enter as refugees, asylees or parolees, still others, who do not qualify for asylum status, are also allowed to stay in the United States for protracted periods of time and to take jobs as non-immigrants. Some of these "persons residing [in the United States] under the color of law" (PRUCOL) — a term that has developed in case law, but does not have any programmatic definition — eventually may become permanent residents through amnesty-type provisions or adjustment of status following establishing eligibility for resident status, while others may simply disappear into the woodwork. Even though these additional newcomers, like asylum applicants, are likely to remain permanently, they are not included in the annual reports of the INS on new immigrants, nor are they included in our total. For this reason, the 1.2 million level of total immigration — although more comprehensive than the INS total of 799,000 — is still understated. Over the long run, however, these persons should enter the calculation of the legal or illegal immigrant population.

The earliest category of indefinite nonimmigrant status for persons seeking protection in the United States was Extended Voluntary Departure (EVD). The EVD category was developed under the aegis of the discretionary authority of the Attorney General for persons found to be ineligible for asylum because they did not have a well-founded fear of persecution, but turbulent conditions in their home country precluded deportation until conditions improved.

The 1990 Immigration Act created a new category of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to apply to persons in the United States from countries experiencing armed conflict or a natural disaster, or where an extraordinary and temporary condition exists. Under this provision, foreigners from designated countries who are in the United States legally or illegally may be allowed to stay temporarily for renewable periods up to eighteen months and to seek employment. When TPS was enacted, some non-resident aliens who previously had been accorded EVD status — like those from El Salvador, who were specifically designated in the legislation as eligible for the new status —became eligible to apply for TPS. Over 188,000 Salvadorans did so. Other TPS recipients have included aliens from Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Somalia and Bosnia (currently only Bosnians, Somalis, Rwandans and Liberians are eligible).

Although the TPS status has been accorded to some nationalities and then withdrawn when conditions appeared to warrant it, there is no data available that would indicate whether the temporarily protected persons subsequently have departed from the United States. This process of fine-tuning exceptional categories for non-immigrants whom the United States is not prepared to deport has undergone a further change with the adoption of yet another provision: Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status for Salvadorans whose TPS coverage had expired. Although DED for Salvadorans expired at the end of 1994, the administration extended a further nine-month grace period before requiring any departures. It remains unclear whether and to what extent the administration will actually require these Salvadorans to leave.

That this PRUCOL status is an ill-defined policy area may be seen in the request of the Salvadoran government that DED status be prolonged beyond its mandated expiration date. It argued that a large influx of returning Salvadorans to their homeland would be economically destabilizing. The Guatemalan and Nicaraguan governments have made similar pleas to the U.S. government to not deport their nationals in any large numbers, with the Guatemalan Government asking in early 1994 to designate Guatemalans as eligible for TPS status. Guatemala argued that it had its hands full with the influx of returning Guatemalans from Mexico and would not welcome additional returnees from the United States. The issue is whether the DED and TPS status should be used for foreign policy convenience to suit the wishes of foreign governments or purely as a provision for temporary humanitarian protection. Experience demonstrates that the longer a given foreign population stays in the United States, finds jobs, becomes married to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and has U.S.-born children, the more likely it is that those persons will make permanent their temporary stay in this country.

Special Categories: 44,255 (FY'94)

Because U.S. law has numerous special provisions tailored by legislation to benefit certain classes of immigrants, a "special categories" rubric is necessary as a catchall to round out a description of immigration. Not all immigrants fit into job-related, family-based or humanitarian entry. The largest immigration provision that does not fall into one of the major categories is the "diversity" immigrant program.

Traditionally, the United States immigration system allowed persons who had no employment or family-based eligibility for a visa to apply as a non-preference immigrant. However, waiting lists for these visas grew to be many years long. As an alternative approach, lottery provisions have been enacted in 1986, 1988 and 1990. At present (and during the 1987-88 period) it is operated as a provision to benefit citizens of "adversely affected countries". Those countries are ones that had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States significantly reduced by the end of the "national origins" quota system in 1965. This legislation reopens a larger scale of immigration from European countries. The major beneficiaries of the provision so far have been the Irish and the Poles.

In FY-94, of the total of 44,255 immigrants who fell under the catchall "special" category, 41,115 (93% of the total) were "diversity transition," or lottery immigrants. Under the FY-93 program, 14,806 Poles and 12,221 Irish — over 80% of the 33,468 lottery visas in that year — benefited from that program. The diversity category had a ceiling of 40,000 during the "lottery" period. Beginning in FY-95, the diversity system has a ceiling of 55,000 (see Spring 1992 issue of Scope for a detailed explanation of the operation of this program).

Illegal Immigration: 300,000 (1995 estimate)

Our estimate of the net increase in illegal immigrants into the United States remains unchanged at 300,000. This increase would raise the estimated number of illegal immigrants in the country to about 5.4 million, nearly as large as our estimate of the illegal population in 1986, after which much of the illegal alien population was eliminated by the IRCA legislation that gave them legal resident status. The INS estimate of the current illegal alien population is about 4.3 million, and one estimate published by the Center (see Summer 1994 issue of Immigration Review) put the number at 5.85 million in 1994.

Quantifying annual illegal immigration is by its very nature imprecise. New illegal settlers in the United States cross the border surreptitiously — Enter Without Inspection (EWI in INS parlance) — or enter the country fraudulently. Others may enter legally and later become illegal immigrants. Examples of the latter illegal status would include tourists, students and temporary workers who stay beyond their authorized admission or asylum applicants who fail to pursue their application.

The INS reports data on exclusions at the ports of entry and apprehensions and deportations of illegal aliens, but does not include in its annual statistics an official estimate of the level of illegal entry. Nevertheless, the INS has made an effort to quantify this sub rosa immigration stream. It has studied data supplied by the formerly illegal immigrants who benefited from the IRCA "amnesty", and it has used computer-assisted matching of entry and departure data on non-immigrants to develop profiles on visa overstayers. Using this data, the INS came up with an estimate in 1993 that the net rate of illegal immigration between 1988 and 1992 was 300,000 per year. Previously the INS had estimated the rate at 200,000. The higher estimate is not based on evidence of an increase in illegal immigration; rather it simply reflects better analysis.

Some researchers have suggested that the rate of illegal immigration is linked to the U.S. economy and the availability of jobs. This is one of the "pull" factors. The "push" factors include high unemployment and underemployment and poverty. Thus the current surge in attempted illegal immigration from Mexico would be seen largely as resulting from jobs lost because of the year-end peso devaluation, increased by the pull factor of U.S. jobs even at the bottom end of the wage scale representing a much higher earning potential than comparable jobs in Mexico.

Although the deterrent effect of the employer sanctions has been eroded by readily available fraudulent documents and by inadequate inspections, that does not necessarily mean illegal immigration is rising. Other factors may have dampened the attraction for would-be illegal immigrants. Among those certainly would be the still-weak economy and unemployment in California, the prime destination for southwest border crossers. Additionally, the publicity generated by Proposition 187 seems likely to have acted as a disincentive to new illegal immigrants, even though it is tied up in the courts.

Although 1994 was a quiet year in terms of Chinese smuggling operations by boat into the United States, the State Department has rung alarm bells this year on the basis of two ships intercepted early in the year and intelligence reports of others preparing to sail. The finding of a two-and-a-half year study of illegal Chinese immigration by Rutgers sociology professor Ko-lin Chin, sponsored by the U.S. government and reported in May 1994, is that more than 10,000 illegal Chinese immigrants enter the United States each year, and only one third are intercepted by the INS.

The Census Bureau's current estimate of illegal immigration, which it uses for its middle level Population projection, is still 200,000 per year, although that is likely to be increased later this year. Only the Bureau's high scenario uses a 300,000 net level of illegal immigration. That estimate — which also includes other assumptions that would cause rising population growth — leads to an estimated U.S. population in 2050 of 522 million persons, one-third higher than the middle scenario. Estimates from unofficial sources of illegal immigration vary widely from the 200,000 level to as much as 500,000.

The Center's figure of 300,000 illegal immigrants per year is an estimate of the net increase — like that of the INS. However, no reliable data are available on the rate at which illegals immigrate back to their home countries. This is an area that requires new methods of estimation or measurement. It may be that the emigration rate is higher than previously thought. The Census Bureau has released a new study that significantly increases the estimated emigration rate for the foreign born in general, and this will be a factor in their next population projection.

Apprehensions of Illegal Aliens: 1,327,000 (FY'94)

The trend in apprehensions over the past two decades has been one of steady increase from 1961-1976, then leveling off at about one million until resuming its sharp climb again from 1983 to 1986. This climb was reversed temporarily in 1987, after implementation of IRCA (see Figure 10).

The data reflect a clear correlation between the adoption of the employer sanctions provision of IRCA and decreased apprehensions. This correlation indicates the deterrent effect on would-be illegal immigrants of the prospect of being unable to find employment. However, as ways to circumvent the documentary requirements of IRCA have been found, principally through forged documents, the trend in apprehensions has resumed its climb.

Apprehension figures include all INS detentions of illegal aliens, but most of the enforcement effort is at the southern land border with Mexico. That is evident in the fact that almost all of the apprehensions (97.5% in FY-93) were of aliens entering without inspection (EWI). The same INS data show that almost all of those apprehended (95.3%) were Mexicans. The INS acknowledges that the same individual may be apprehended many times during the course of a year, thus the number of apprehensions should not be used as an indicator of the number of individuals illegally entering or remaining in the United States in a given year. Only in San Diego, as a result of a new computerized fingerprint identification system, are the first reliable data on recidivism becoming available. Early data indicate that as many as 30 percent of the apprehended illegal aliens are recidivists. Rule of thumb estimates of recidivism elsewhere on the border have been much higher.1

The Center's studies of Border Patrol operations make clear that a large number of apprehensions may be accounted for by persons who are illegally entering the United States for a short period, rather than in an attempt to establish permanent residence here. Therefore, apprehension data should be used as an indicator of the level of illegal immigration only with great caution.

The continuing success of the El Paso Border Patrol operation (now termed Operation Hold the Line) and enhanced control capabilities in the San Diego sector — the most abused border sector by illegal crossers — have reduced overall apprehensions in FY-94 for the first time since the deterrent effect of employer sanctions began to wear off. This success challenges earlier popular assumptions that the border was uncontrollable. Nevertheless, even though the number of successful illegal border crossers in those sectors has declined because of the more efficient deployment of resources, these gains have been partially offset elsewhere, especially in the Nogales, Ariz. area. And it would appear that the impact of Operation Hold the Line at El Paso is much greater on short-term border crossers than on potential illegal settlers. The latter are more likely to move to weaker enforcement points on the border. Therefore, a declining number of apprehensions will not necessarily equate with a declining incidence of illegal cross-border immigration until such time as the remaining weak points also are effectively closed off. The increase in illegal border crossing and apprehensions attributable to the deteriorated economic conditions in Mexico is putting the Border Patrol's increased deterrence strategy to the test.

Deportations and Removals Under Docket Control: 45,068 (FY'94)

One measure of the effect of employer sanctions is data on removal of those who are found to be in the country illegally. The level of deportations and removals under docket control barely registers when compared to apprehensions, and it is less than the number of interior apprehensions (see Figure 11, which separately shows non-Southwest border apprehensions only since 1991).

Of the estimated 1994 U.S. population of about five million illegal aliens, the INS deported 45,000 in FY-94. Most were in custody for criminal offenses. The share of deportations for illegal employment in the United States has declined while that for criminal offenses has risen. The net of the two trends is an overall decline in deportations from the level during the first half of the 1980s (see Figure 12).

The reason for the decline in employment-related apprehension of illegal immigrants is, to a large extent, a factor of the level of effort dedicated to that responsibility by the INS. Following an early rise in personnel assigned to the investigations function — between 1988 and 1989 — the resources have steadily declined. As would be expected, because of the declining resources for enforcing the employer sanctions law against hiring illegal aliens, both the number and the amount of fines against employers have also declined after an initial increase through 1990. It is clear that additional resources are required by the enforcement units if they are going to be able to make the prospect of discovery and penalties a significant threat to employers who knowingly are employing illegal immigrants.

Naturalization: 314,681 (FY'93)

The naturalization function of the Immigration and Naturalization Service does not usually attract much public attention, except at July 4th swearing in ceremonies for new citizens. However, many news accounts have appeared recently about a surge in naturalization applications. The reasons for the increase are numerous and it is not possible to ascribe the change to any single factor.

One explanation for greater naturalization applications is simply the fact that there are more immigrants in the country now than at any time since early in the century, before immigration limits were enacted. Secondly, a significant surge in the number of new legal immigrants began in 1989 as a result of the IRCA amnesty program for illegal residents. Five years later, these new legal residents have become eligible to apply for citizenship (see Figures 13 and 14). Other factors reportedly related to the surge include the passage of the Proposition 187 initiative in California, the national debate on welfare reform and the proposed cut-off of welfare program eligibility for non-citizens, and the INS program to require aliens to obtain new secure Alien Registration Cards ("green cards"). Rather than pay the substantial fee for the new card, some aliens have indicated that they preferred instead to pay the only slightly higher costs of the naturalization application fee.

A further factor is the emphasis on naturalization accorded by Doris Meissner, the new INS Commissioner. She has sought additional funding and procedures that would allow the INS to devolve some of the preparatory functions for naturalization to community and ethnic support groups. These measures have facilitated the English language and citizenship instruction for immigrants and have included arrangement for INS officers to go to groups of immigrants rather than requiring applicants to go to specified INS offices.

In any case, it is reasonable to expect the number of naturalization applications to continue to increase as long as the number of new legal immigrants remains at the current high level. With nearly 12 million non-citizen immigrants in the country at the time of the 1990 census, as a result of the low rate of naturalization (see Table 3), pressure on the naturalization process could grow much more before the level of U.S. citizen immigrants begins to approximate the eligible number. However, it should be recalled that the census included illegal immigrants, who may not become citizens without first becoming legal residents. Assuming there were about four million illegal immigrants in 1990, of whom about 2.6 million were included in the census, then the resulting rate of those legal immigrants who were U.S. citizens was about 43.5 percent, rather than the 40 percent of the total foreign born in the census. The 1990 total eligible to apply will be reduced slightly from the remaining 9.2 million because of those ineligible due to insufficient years in the country or some disqualifying criminal offense.

Costs of Immigration: $29,136,000,000 (1994)

Both legal and illegal immigration impose fiscal and other costs to the federal government as well as to state and local governments. These costs may be offset by contributions, such as tax payments. Estimating these costs is difficult because there are no agreed terms of reference or even agreement on the size of the illegal immigrant population. Until the past few years, most studies of the costs of immigration concluded that immigrants were an economic contribution to the nation. These studies generally focused on overall economic consequences, rather than fiscal impact and they were based on pre-1970 immigrants.

In 1991, the Center issued its first cost study: Estimated Annual Costs of Major Federal and State Services to Illegal Aliens. It drew on research by George Borjas and Lief Jensen to estimate the annual fiscal cost of illegal immigrants on the basis of their use of 13 major federal and state services. The greatest expenses were for public education for the children of illegal immigrants, whether born abroad or in the United States ($2 billion), uncompensated medical care ($1 billion), criminal justice/corrections outlays ($800 million), and Medicaid ($700 million). The total estimated 1990 cost was $5.5 billion.

Using similar methodology, in 1993 Rice University economics professor Donald Huddle estimated the total 1992 costs of illegal immigration from 25 programs at $17.6 billion. In addition, Huddle estimated the fiscal costs to local governments at $7.4 billion, and indirect costs for unemployment and welfare outlays for U.S. workers who lost jobs to illegal aliens amounted to another $4.3 billion. Offsetting those total estimated costs of $29.3 billion, Huddle calculated the illegal immigrants paid $10 billion in taxes, for a net deficit of $19.3 billion in 1992. He made similar calculations for the costs and tax contributions of the three million formerly illegal immigrants whose status was legalized by the 1986 amnesty. They, by being made legal residents, became eligible for welfare benefits precluded to them previously, and the federal government made impact funding available to the states to help meet some of the new outlays. The estimated cost for these immigrants was $15 billion, offset by $6.5 billion in taxes paid. Huddle's estimate for legal immigrants (including U.S. worker displacement costs) was expenditures of $76.5 billion offset by contributions of $60.5 billion, for a net cost of $16 billion. Overall, those three separate estimates totaled $44 billion.

A subsequent critique of the Huddle study by the Urban Institute concluded that contributions by immigrants more than offset their fiscal costs, and that the balance was a net $29 billion benefit. The marked difference in these two studies was based on numerous fundamentally different assumptions, including the size of the alien population and what programs and contributions should be counted; The Urban Institute included such payments as employer-paid Social Security contributions and unemployment compensation while accepting neither the costs of education for the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants nor job displacement as valid costs.

We analyzed both the Huddle and Urban Institute cost studies in September 1994. Our finding was that Huddle over-counted some costs related to job displacement, but the Urban Institute was much further off the mark. We estimated the net cost was a deficit of $29 billion. The largest cost areas were the same ones we had identified in our earlier study of illegal immigrants costs: education ($13 billion), Medicaid ($8 billion), corrections ($4.5 billion) and supplemental medical insurance ($2 billion). In addition, our new calculations included outlays at the county level ($7 billion) and city level ($8 billion). Our cost estimate was $51 billion higher than that of the Urban Institute, and our estimate of tax contributions was $7 billion lower.

Further cost studies have continued to appear. Several have been undertaken by states that have been heavily impacted by illegal immigration. These calculations led to lawsuits against the federal government to recover costs by California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Prof. Huddle has produced state studies for California, Texas and New York. The Urban Institute provided a new calculation for the federal government that addressed just illegal immigrant costs in the seven major states of settlement: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Arizona. The included costs were limited to incarceration, schooling of the foreign-born children of illegal aliens, and Medicaid. The Urban Institute found total costs of $3.56 billion offset by broadly-defined contributions — including earmarked taxes — of $1.9 billion (see Table 8).

Despite the differences among the various studies, it is clear that illegal immigrants are costing the American taxpayer considerably, as President Clinton noted in his weekly radio address on May 6, 1995. There is also agreement that, among all immigrants, the refugee population is the most expensive to the taxpayer, because these settlers become immediately eligible for welfare benefits, and they often are among the least prepared to join the U.S. job market. This is not to say that individual illegal immigrants and refugees may not make a positive fiscal contribution, but they do not do so as a group. The same may be said about legal immigrants. But, with increasing numbers of legal immigrants — like the amnesty population — having low educational attainment and job skills levels, the old assumptions of the positive contributions to the nation of immigrants have been overtaken.

Selected Global Data

World Population: 5,702,000,000 (1995 estimate)

Population growth in the United States should be understood in the context of population growth globally. This is true not just in terms of its relative demographic factors (fertility and mortality) but also because of immigration, which is influenced by demographic, economic and political conditions elsewhere. Although the U.S. population size (third largest after China and India) and growth rate are high relative to other industrialized countries, world population growth is still greater, and the populations of China and India greatly exceed that of population in the United States (see Table 9).

China's population is over four and one-half times larger, and India's is nearly three and one-half times larger than that of the United States, according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). In addition, the natural population growth rate (births minus deaths, but not emigration) in those countries is much higher than in the United States.2 China, by adopting a one-child per family policy, has succeeded in reducing its natural growth rate to 1.1 percent per year, about the same as the U .S. rate of growth when immigration is included. India is growing at 1.9 percent per year, a rate about two-and-a-half times more rapid than the natural growth rate of the United States.

Mexico's natural population growth rate, put at 2.2 percent by PRB, would be about three times that of the United States if it were not for the sizable numbers of Mexicans who migrate to the United States — over 107,000 legally and a higher number illegally in 1994. That rate implies that Mexico's population would double every 31 years. However, PRB also projects a population for Mexico in 2025 — 30 years from now — of 136.6 million, rather than the 184 million that doubling implies. That 47.4 million person reduction in projected population size can be achieved only with much lower fertility and/or massive migration to the United States. Even if Mexico's natural growth rate were steadily reduced over the next 30 years to half its current rate (from 2.2% to 1.1%), Mexico's natural growth rate would still produce an additional 25 million persons -many of whom would likely seek opportunities in the United States.

To illustrate the difference between various rates of population growth, Figure 15 depicts the effect of selected growth rates over a 30-year period. At PRB's 0.7 percent estimated natural growth rate of the United States and Canada, the population grows just under 25 percent. China, with a 1.1 percent rate — which reflects the actual rate of the United States with immigration — achieves the same 25 percent population increase in less than 21 years. The world growth rate of 1.5 percent per year yields a 25 percent population increase in 15 years and a 50 percent increase in 27 years For Mexico, with a 2.2 percent per annum rate of increase, the 50 percent growth in population is achieved in a little over 18 years. Central America, by comparison, with a 2.7-percent rate of increase, adds 50 percent in just 15 years and doubles its population in just 26 years - less than the time during which the U.S. population grows by one-fourth.

Another way to view relative population sizes and growth rates in this hemisphere is to compare the United States and its close southern neighbors Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. With about 62 percent of the U.S. population size today, in 30 years these countries taken together are estimated by PRB to likely have a combined population 73 percent of that of the U.S. (that estimate allows for immigration). If South America is added to the other southern neighbors, their combined population today is about 83 percent greater than the population of the United States, and in thirty years their combined population growth is projected to be over twice (209% ) that of the United States.

The 1995 world population estimate of PRB is 95 million persons higher than it was for 1994. Nearly half (48.2%) of that is accounted for by India (19 million more) and China (26.8 million more). The current estimated world rate of growth is decreasing marginally; and it results in a projected world population in 2025 — in just 30 years — of 8.3 billion. nearly half again (46%) today's population.

World Refugees: 16,276,000 (1995)

World Displaced Persons: 26-30,000,000 (1995)

The estimate of 16.3 million refugees worldwide at the start of 1995 is from the annual World Refugee Survey of the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). This estimate is lower than estimates often cited by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. Department of State — which last year estimated the world refugee population at 20 million. A Congressional Staff Forum on International Development meeting notice in June stated that "As of March 1995, there were over 20 million international refugees..." Worldwatch Institute released a report in June which put the worlds' refugee population at an all time high of 23 million.

We have adopted the USCR estimate simply because the U.S. Department of State has discontinued publishing its annual World Refugee Report, and the USCR data is part of a time series that portrays the escalating nature of this migration flow. However, it should be noted that there is no one official number of refugees. As the USCR notes in its 1994 report:

"...government tallies cannot always be trusted to give full and unbiased accounts of refugee movements. One country’s asylum seeker is another’s illegal immigrant. Today’s internally displaced person may be tomorrow’s refugee. The call is sometimes a matter of law and policy, but just as frequently it is a matter of judgment."

In any case, whatever the source, the data on refugees indicate a rising trend (see Figure 16). The end of Cold War rivalry and higher levels of refugee admissions by the United States (as seen in Figure 8) and other countries clearly have not reduced the refugee population.

The USCR data reflect 1994 settlement of 128,811 refugees and asylees in the United States and a total for the other 13 major resettlement countries of 124,132. Thus, the United States accounted for more than half of the total. The share is probably higher, because the U.S. data for asylees reflect adjustments to residence status rather than the number of those actually admitted to this country, which is many times higher. Using the USCR data for the world refugee population, the quarter of a million refugees and asylees settled in the major recipient countries represent only slightly over 1.5 percent of the worldwide total. (See Table 10.)

The role of the United States as the major country of refugee resettlement does not mean, however, that it is carrying the greatest load. When the level of refugees resettled is compared to total population, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland and Denmark all appear to be accommodating greater per capita levels than the United States. Also noteworthy in the refugee resettlement data is the absence of some industrialized countries, such as Japan, Belgium and Greece.

End Notes

1 Can We Control the Border? A Look at Recent Efforts in San Diego, El Paso, and Nogales, by John Martin, Center for Immigration Studies, Paper No. 8, May 1995.

2 The Population Reference Bureau's annual Population Data Sheet reflects natural rates of population increase. This is changed based on fertility and mortality but excludes net immigration. Thus PRB's 0.7% rate of growth for the United States is lower than the 1.1% rate of overall population change; and the difference is due to immigration.

Sources of Data

  1. Center for Immigration Studies, The Costs of Immigration: Assessing a Conflicted Issue, Washington, DC, September 1994.
  2. Population Reference Bureau, Inc., 1995 World Population Data Sheet, Washington, DC, April 1995.
  3. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, "Population Projection of the United States...", P-25-1018 (1989), by Gregory Spencer, and P-25-1092 (1992), and P-25-1104 (1993), both by Jennifer Cheeseman Day, GPO, Washington, DC.
  4. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Division, The Foreign Born Population in the United States: 1990, Pub. CPH-L-98, and CP-3-1 -July 1993, both by Susan Lapham, Washington, DC, 1993.
  5. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Division, Population Projections for States, by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin: 1993-2020, Pub. P25-1111, March 1994, by Paul R. Campbell, Washington, DC, 1994.
  6. U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1994 World Refugee Survey, ISSN: 0197-5439 (and preliminary 1995 Report data), Washington, DC, 1994.
  7. U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1993 Statistical Yearbook, NTIS order No. PB 94-205564, Washington, DC, September 1994.
  8. U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, preliminary statistics for FY-1994 covering Table 4 data and Detail Run 401, Washington, DC, 1995.