There’s no doubt about the fact that the US has the highest number of immigrants compared to any other country across the globe. In fact, approximately 13.7% of the US population are immigrants. However, this percentage only covers legal citizens, so what about the undocumented immigrants in the US?
Basically, 77% of immigrants living on US soil are in the country legally. That leaves 23% of undocumented cases.
But, what exactly is an undocumented immigrant? Is it the same as an illegal alien? If so, which term should you use?
In this article, we would like to share our insight on the subject of undocumented immigrants and clear up some common misconceptions about them.
What is an Undocumented Immigrant?
When asked, most people will say that an undocumented immigrant is someone who wasn’t born in the US, but is nevertheless living there illegally. In other words, an illegal alien. But, are these terms interchangeable?
In theory, yes they are. However, the term undocumented is a better choice than the latter, as it is more respectable. In the same way, some people will choose to say unauthorized. But, regardless of which word you use, they all mean the same thing.
How Does the US Calculate the Percentage of Undocumented Immigrants?
Obviously, determining how many illegal citizens are in the US is pretty difficult. After all, illegal citizens aren’t exactly willing to disclose their legal status to the world. So how do estimators come up with the numbers?
Ultimately, the way it works is that estimators estimate how many immigrants are in the US altogether. In order to do so, they use data from the Census Bureau’s ACS (American Community Survey). This survey interviews approximately 2 million households per year, and the main thing they ask is whether or not you were born in the US. However, they don’t ask if you’re here illegally.
The next step is subtracting the number of legal immigrants from the overall estimate of immigrants. That final number equals the estimate of undocumented (illegal) immigrants in the US.
How Did Undocumented Immigrants Get to the US?
The most common misconception about undocumented immigrants is that they got to the US by sneaking across the border. Although this may be true in some cases, most illegal immigrants actually came to the US legally, as tourists or with a temporary work visa, and then chose to remain on US ground even after their visa expired.
Can You Apply for a Green Card if You’re Undocumented?
Ultimately, entering the US illegally makes it impossible for immigrants to apply for a green card. In fact, in order to apply for one, you would need to be located outside of the US borders.
Furthermore, getting caught as an illegal alien can even result in a ten-year ban from entering the US. In short, there are plenty of risks and little reward.
To Sum Up
As you can see, there is quite a substantial percentage of undocumented immigrants in the US. If you would like to find out more about immigration laws and generally about your rights as an immigrant, check out our other blog posts.