Most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data.
With an estimated 250,000 persons, the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area, part of the Diocese of San Bernardino, has the nation’s ninth highest population of unauthorized immigrants.
The Pew study does not include the religious affiliation of the undocumented persons but there is often a strong correlation between immigrant populations and the Catholic faith, particularly among Hispanic and Asian peoples.
“To me it drives home the concept of neighbor,” said Abraham Joven, Director of Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants for the Diocese of San Bernardino, speaking about the new Pew data. “The people who are sitting next to you in the pews are absolutely affected by this.”
The analysis shows that the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population is highly concentrated, more so than the U.S. population overall. In 2014, the 20 metro areas with most unauthorized immigrants were home to 6.8 million of them, or 61% of the estimated nationwide total. By contrast, only 36% of the total U.S. population lived in those metro areas.
But the analysis also shows that unauthorized immigrants tend to live where other immigrants live. Among lawful immigrants—including naturalized citizens and noncitizens—65% lived in those top metros.
By far the biggest unauthorized immigrant populations were in the New York and Los Angeles metro areas (1.2 million and 1 million, respectively). No other metro area approached a million. Among the top 20 areas, the smallest unauthorized immigrant populations included Orlando (110,000) and Austin (100,000).
Five of the 20 metros with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations are in California: Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose. Three—Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin—are in Texas.
Some of these areas could be affected by the Trump administration’s promise to take action against localities that do not cooperate with federal officials in identifying unauthorized immigrants. The president’s executive order promises to cut federal funds to these “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Mayors in several big cities have said they will not comply with the order.
The top 20 metropolitan areas for unauthorized immigrants have been remarkably consistent over the past decade, according to the Center’s analysis. Nineteen of the 20 top metropolitan destinations for unauthorized immigrants in 2014 ranked among the top 20 each year over the previous decade.
The Center’s analysis relies on augmented data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, using the same residual method as its previous reports on unauthorized immigrants. Unauthorized immigrants include people who either crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas.
Unauthorized immigrants account for about one-in-four foreign-born U.S. residents. They make up a somewhat higher share of immigrants in the Houston (37%), Dallas (37%), Atlanta (33%), Phoenix (37%), Las Vegas (35%), Denver (37%) and Austin (34%) metro areas. They make up a somewhat lower share of all immigrants in the New York (19%), Miami (18%), San Francisco (17%) and San Jose (17%) metro areas.
This article first appeared on the Pew Research Center web site announcing the results of the study.