The number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States topped nearly 50 million in October 2023, marking a new record high, according to a new report published Nov. 30 by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Approximately 49.5 million individuals who were originally born in another country—including both legal and illegal immigrants—were living in the United States as of October 2023, making up roughly 15 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS).

That figure is the highest ever recorded in American history, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Estimates Show Numbers Climbing Higher

Earlier this month, the Census Bureau published estimates projecting the foreign-born population would increase to 19.5 percent in 2100.

Noting that the projections are influenced by assumptions regarding international migration, the Census Bureau said that in a high-immigration scenario, those figures could rise to 24.4 percent, and in a low-immigration scenario, they could increase to 14.9 percent, meaning the number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States has already surpassed the lower end of those projections.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that, if legal and illegal immigration were to continue at the current level, the total foreign-born population would reach nearly 59 million and 17.3 percent of the population by December 2028.

The Census Bureau, where data for the study was collected from, had originally estimated the foreign-born population wouldn’t hit 15% until 2033.

A Summary of Findings

Here is a summary of the Center for Immigration Studies’ findings:

  • In October 2023, the CPS shows that 15 percent of the U.S. population is now foreign-born — higher than any U.S. government survey or census has ever recorded.
  • The 49.5 million foreign-born residents (legal and illegal) in October 2023 is also a new record high.
  • Based on prior estimates of illegal immigrants, more than half (2.5 million) of the 4.5 million increase in the foreign-born population since January 2021 is likely due to illegal immigration. If adjusted for those missed by the survey, the increase would be larger.
  • The 4.5 million increase overall and the 2.5 million increase in illegal immigrants are both net figures. The number of new arrivals was significantly higher, but was offset by outmigration and natural mortality among the foreign-born already here.
  • The scale of immigration is so high that it appears to have made the new Census Bureau population projections, published on November 9 of this year, obsolete. The bureau projected that the foreign-born share was not supposed to hit 15 percent until 2033.
  • The largest percentage increases since January 2021 are for immigrants from South America (up 28 percent); Central America (up 25 percent); Sub-Saharan Africa (up 21 percent); the Caribbean (up 20 percent); and the Middle East (up 14 percent).
  • Immigrants from all of Latin America increased by 2.9 million since January 2021, accounting for 63 percent of the total increase in the foreign-born.
  • While a large share of the recent foreign-born growth is due to illegal immigration, legal immigrants still account for three-fourths of the total foreign-born population. A portion of the surge is making up for the slowdown during Covid-19. During COVID, the processing of visas overseas greatly slowed. 
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