Biden's Border Crisis Puts Country on Pace for Largest Foreign-Born Population in US History

Illegal immigrants account for two-thirds of growth in foreign-born population, study shows

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June 2, 2022

The foreign-born population of the United States has reached its highest level in more than a century under President Joe Biden, a surge driven by the record number of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border. 

The country's foreign-born population reached 47 million by the end of April, compared to 44.7 million when Biden was elected in November 2020, according to data compiled in a new paper from the Center for Immigration Studies, meaning the immigrant population has grown at a rate of 132,000 per month. Two-thirds of that growth, the paper's authors estimate, can be attributed to illegal immigration.

The paper sheds light on the rapid demographic changes taking place under the Biden administration that are largely a consequence of a border crisis with little end in sight. The rate of growth of the foreign-born population on Biden's watch is shattering levels during previous administrations—in former president Barack Obama’s first term, the foreign-born population grew at a rate of 59,000 per month, and 76,000 per month in his second term. That rate shrunk under former president Donald Trump, when the foreign-born population grew by an average of 42,000 a month before the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down migration into the United States.

Over the last 22 years, the foreign-born population has jumped by 51 percent and now makes up a total of 14.3 percent of the U.S. population. In 1970, the foreign-born population made up just 4.7 percent of the country, a third of what it is today.

Under Biden, the foreign-born population has grown at twice the rate of the native born population. Such a large discrepancy in growth rates between the two populations has not been observed in the United States since 1910, when the foreign-born population approached 14.7 percent before dramatically dropping for the next 50 years. The paper's authors attribute the historic growth to a number of factors relating to the current administration's weak immigration posture.

"The administration’s suspension of nearly all interior deportations and the resulting dramatic decline in immigration enforcement, including deportations, plus its refusal to automatically take custody of non-citizens released from jails and prisons have all likely made illegal immigrants feel safer, reducing emigration of those already here and encouraging new illegal immigration," the authors write.

According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population will reach an all-time high of 14.9 percent foreign-born by 2028. The authors of the study believe that projection is conservative and fails to take into account the spike during the Biden administration—the paper projects the foreign-born share of the U.S. population will hit 14.9 percent by next September. By the conclusion of Biden’s first term, the authors write, the total number of immigrants in the United States will reach 51.3 million.

"It seems clear that something has fundamentally changed and the illegal immigration population has grown dramatically after being relatively stable for a number of years," the authors write.

Biden has presided over the worst border crisis in recorded American history. Border officials encountered 234,000 migrants on the southern border in April alone, the most ever on record.

Of those 234,000 migrants, nearly 118,000 were released into the U.S. interior. Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month that he expects future migrant encounters to be even higher should the administration be successful in ending Title 42, a public health measure that allows for the rapid deportation of anyone seeking entry into the United States.

More than 1.3 million migrants have been encountered on the southern border in the 2022 fiscal year so far, and a vast majority of them did not face immediate deportation. The 2021 fiscal year saw 1.7 million migrant encounters, the highest in more than 60 years. 

The immigration crisis is one of Biden's largest electoral liabilities. Polling consistently shows a majority of voters disapprove of his handling of the border, including a Harvard-Harris survey released last month that found immigration was the third most concerning issue to voters.