Geographic Distribution

Lets explore some data on the numbers and geographic distribution of illegal immigration in the US, remembering of course that illegal immigration is only one part of the broader immigration policy issue. Use the graph below to explore data on the population of undocumented immigrants in the US. We also tell you a little about the contemporary political debates on the issue. When you are done exploring, answer the questions below using the data as a resource, and click “submit” to activate the arrow to advance.

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Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia: < 5000

Source: Estimates published by Pew Research Center, 2016, based on results from the American Community Survey, produced by the US Census Bureau.

Illegal immigration in Focus

Whether illegal immigration is a salient issue depends heavily on where you live in the US, in part because undocumented immigrants are not spread evenly across the US, but debates over illegal immigration have often been national in scope even when the phenomenon is not. The debate over illegal immigration is multi-faceted, involving questions like whether the US should increase spending towards and enforcement of border security, how the US should deal with undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US for long periods of time, or who were brought to the US as minors, and whether immigration officials should treat all undocumented immigrants equally, or prioritize some categories of undocumented immigrants, such as violent criminal offenders, for enforcement before non-violent offenders. While most agree that undocumented immigration and the presence of undocumented immigrants are both problems, Americans disagree on how to resolve these issues. Disagreements are often regional, but we also see disagreements both across and within parties. For example, while many Republican leaders favored granting undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, under the Obama and Trump administrations the Republican party have seen intensification of divisions within itself over how to deal with illegal immigration.

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