REUTERS/David McNew

A new Pew report estimates the undocumented immigrant population in cities throughout the U.S. and finds that just 20 metros are home to 60 percent of them.

There are an estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Of those, 6.8 million, or 61 percent, live in just 20 metro areas, a new Pew analysis finds—a very high concentration, considering only 36 percent of the total U.S. population lives in these areas.

(Pew Research Center)

According to the report, undocumented immigrants accounted for just 3.5 percent of the total U.S. population in 2014, and for about 26 percent of foreign-born residents.

As is perhaps expected, the analysis found that undocumented immigrants tend to live among lawful immigrants. Sixty-five percent of naturalized citizens and authorized noncitizen immigrants live in these same 20 metros. The largest populations of undocumented immigrants were found in New York, at 1.2 million, and Los Angeles, at 1 million. Nowhere else came even close to these numbers: Houston, the next runner-up, clocked in at just 575,000. Five of the top 20 metros were found in California (Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose).

(Pew Research Center)

The report uses information from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. But the analysis finds that the geographic breakdown has remained consistent, with 19 of the top 20 metros for undocumented immigrants remaining on the list for the past decade.

This geography could be significant over the next four years, as the Trump administration gears up to deport potentially millions of undocumented immigrants. Several of the cities on this list are so-called sanctuaries, or municipalities that in some way limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants. In two sweeping executive orders signed at the end of January, President Trump promised, among other things, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, cutting off their federal grant money. One order specifies that such municipalities “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”

It will likely end up being legally and logistically difficult for Trump to carry out that threat, and his order doesn’t spell out a way to get it done. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, and given the potential scope of the financial loss, some of these cities could start to cave to the pressure. In fact, Miami, number five on this list, already has.

Trump’s orders also call for the immediate construction of his controversial border wall and the ramping up of border security, with 5,000 more border patrol agents and triple the current number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. That adds up to nearly 16,000 ICE officers—all of whom could very well turn out to be an imminent presence in the metros where immigrants live.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  2. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  3. Tourists walk along the High Line in Manhattan, New York City
    Life

    The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth

    A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.

  4. A photo of construction cranes and tall buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
    Equity

    ‘Build More Housing’ Is No Match for Inequality

    A new analysis finds that liberalizing zoning rules and building more won’t solve the urban affordability crisis, and could exacerbate it.  

  5. An artist's rendering of a space colony, with farms, a university campus, an elevated train track, and skyscrapers in the background.
    Design

    Jeff Bezos Dreams of a 1970s Future

    If the sci-fi space cities of Bezos’s Blue Origin look familiar, it’s because they’re derived from the work of his college professor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill.