19 Things You Didn't Know About Immigration

Even the most vocal proponents of comprehensive immigration reform are admitting it: Immigration reform is dead, at least until President Obama leaves office. House Republicans have been opposing immigration reform for months (hell, years), and this week, even democrats are now admitting that further progress seems unlikely, at least until Obama leaves office. It's not looking good for our nation's nearly 12 million undocumented residents.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said in an interview Wednesday after a fiery House floor speech. “My point of view is, this is over. . . . Every day, they become not recalcitrant, but even more energetically opposed to working with us. How many times does someone have to say no until you understand they mean no?”

The sober-eyed realization comes just days after the Obama administration launched a new program intended to slow the flow of immigrant children through the U.S.-Mexican border; the plan involves opening new detention centers, adding more judges to process backlogged immigration cases, increasing aid to Central American governments, and issuing more ankle monitor bracelets to immigrants awaiting hearings. It's a pretty conservative plan, and advocates of immigration reform aren't happy with it.

Immigration is one of the most contentious issues in American politics today, but despite its ubiquity in public discourse, there’s a lot of misinformation and ignorance about immigration floating around out there. Here are 19 things you probably didn’t know about immigrants and immigration law in the United States.

  1. There are nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in America today.
  2. One in eight U.S. residents is foreign-born. Fifty years ago, foreign-born people only accounted for one out of twenty residents.
  3. It wasn’t until 1940 that anybody born on U.S. soil was automatically granted citizenship.
  4. In May 2014, a 58-year-old Florida man who’d voted, worked for the government, and served in the military learned — to his shock — that he wasn’t actually a U.S. citizen.
  5. As of 2010, less than one-third (29 percent) of immigrants residing in the U.S. came from Mexico.<img src=""/>
  6. A total of 19 House Republicans have come out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform — not nearly enough for any legislation to pass.
  7. It costs the U.S. government $23,482 to apprehend, detain, and deport one undocumented immigrant.
  8. After Alabama passed the strictest immigration law in the country, immigrants began leaving the state in droves. Shortly thereafter, the state’s tomato crop began rotting due to lack of farm workers. One farmer claims to have lost $100,000 in profits thanks to the newly-rotting tomatoes.
  9. The Obama administration has deported 1.8 million immigrants since taking office. That’s slightly less than George W. Bush’s total of 2 million — but Obama still has another two years in office.
  10. Passing comprehensive immigration reform would strengthen Social Security, bringing in between $486 and $606 in additional revenue.
  11. There are over 250,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants living in America. <img src=""/>
  12. New immigrants in the U.S. are 30 percent more likely to start a new business than their American-born counterparts.
  13. In 2012, the federal government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement — more than the spending of every other major federal law enforcement agency combined.
  14. Undocumented immigrants paid around $11.2 billion in taxes in 2010.
  15. While in most states, the most common country of origin for documented immigrants is Mexico, there are some exceptions. In three states — North Dakota, Connecticut and Vermont — there are more Bhutanese immigrants than any others, while the most common country of origin for immigrants in Minnesota and Maine is Somalia.
  16. Native Americans weren’t granted automatic American citizenship until 1924.
  17. Ronald Reagan, darling of the modern Republican Party, granted amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  18. Around 45 percent of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are homeowners (and, as such, also pay property taxes to the federal government).
  19. There are currently 50 million displaced people worldwide — more than at any time since World War II.

Images: Progressives for Immigration Reform; Center for American Progress