The States With the Most Illegal Immigrants

A partnership of Slate and the New America Foundation.
Feb. 1 2013 8:45 AM

How Many Illegal Immigrants Live in Your State?

A map of estimated illegal immigrant population, state by state.

A bipartisan group of senators this week outlined a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, an issue President Obama has asked Congress to tackle in the first half of the year. Since the last major overhaul of U.S. immigration policy, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed by Ronald Reagan, the number of illegal immigrants has risen dramatically. According to the Pew Hispanic Center this week, the number of illegal immigrants peaked in 2007 at about 12 million, just as the Bush administration ramped up enforcement of existing immigration laws. With the Obama administration’s continued enforcement and the economic recession, the estimated illegal immigrants declined to just over 11 million in 2011.

Estimating where exactly illegal immigrants reside in the United States is tricky, but the Pew Hispanic Center did just that in 2011 for each state. Although California has the highest number of illegal immigrants, Nevada has the largest proportion of illegal immigrants—7.2 percent of the state population and as much as 10 percent of its workforce. California and Texas follow at just under 7 percent of their populations, with New Jersey and Arizona rounding out the top five.

Mouse over your state on the map to see the estimated number of illegal immigrants living there and how that number has changed in the past two decades.

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NOTE: Survey methods cannot precisely pinpoint for each state the number of illegal immigrants, so the following data in this map meets the 90-percent confidence interval for population estimates for each state (save for a handful of states where the illegal immigrant population is so low that it's nearly impossible to confidently estimate).


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