Illegal immigration has been a part of the American landscape for many decades. While most of us are familiar with illegal immigration from residents of Mexico who cross the Rio Grande and our southern border to find work and homes within the US, there are other means of illegal immigration that includes individuals who let work or school visas expire, but stay within our borders. Such illegal immigration tactics are quite common.
Statistics on the actual number of those who are currently residing in this country through illegal immigration vary widely. In 2008, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that the total number of illegal immigrants was around 11 million. This number was actually a drop from the previous year when 12.5 million people were estimated to be in the US illegally.
However, other studies have shown a range of 7 to 20 million people are currently living in the US illegally. While the actual number may vary, other research centers such as a study conducted by the Pew Research Institute estimated in 2005 that 56% of illegal immigrants come from Mexico, 22% from all other Latin American countries, which consist mostly from Central America, 13% from Asia, 6% from Europe and Canada while the remaining 3% were from Africa or other parts of the world.
Such studies do tend to vary in number from year to year which is understandable since those who have entered this country through illegal immigration tend to not want to be discovered by the US authorities which might result in their deportation. Also, especially in the case of illegal immigration that stems from Mexico, the number varies over time since many of them work in the US illegally for a certain period, then return to their homes.
Of the US states affected by illegal immigration, the top two are states that border Mexico, California and Texas. The most recent statistics show that both states have an estimated 4.7 million illegal immigrants as of 2006. Florida comes in third with almost 1 million people residing through illegal immigration, many of which come from islands in the Caribbean, though former residents of Cuba who arrived are not considered illegal immigrants due to a special political status.
The number of those in the US through illegal immigration is also complicated by the number of children who either may or may not have been born in the US. Under the US constitution, a person born within the borders of the US or US recognized territory is a citizen of the United States, even if their parents are not are in the country illegally.
Of course, illegal immigration should not be confused with the legal permanent residents who are currently within the US. As of January, 2010 there were an estimated 12.6 million persons who reside in the US under a permanent legal status. Of which, 8.1 million are currently eligible to naturalize and become citizens. Despite these numbers, the trend over the past few decades has been that illegal immigration has outstripped their legal counterparts by a significant number over that time period.