Dec 11, 2023 - News

Undocumented immigrants made up 1.2% of Michigan's population as of 2021

Data: Pew Research Center and Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Pew Research Center and Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Undocumented immigrants accounted for 1.2% of Michigan's population as of 2021, per new Pew Research Center analysis.

Why it matters: Advocates in Detroit are making efforts to improve undocumented residents' legal protections, while population experts say finding ways to boost the number of foreign immigrants in the state each year (16,881 people in 2022) could be a solution to our shrinking population.

  • "If we're only going to be just working with people who are born here, you cannot grow your population in that way, and you certainly can't diversify your population in that way," data analyst Kurt Metzger told the Detroit News last week.

Between the lines: There are more undocumented immigrants in Michigan than in Ohio and Indiana — but the figure makes up a higher percent of the overall population in Indiana (1.6%).

State of play: Immigration is expected to be a crucial issue in the 2024 presidential election thanks in part to a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and increasingly harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.

  • The vast majority of visa workers at Michigan farms come from Mexico, MLive reported in a 2021 investigation on the migrant workforce. However, an August 2021 USDA report suggests the supply of Mexican workers willing to work in U.S. agriculture is declining.
  • There were an estimated 4.1 million Mexicans living in the U.S. without authorization in 2021, accounting for 39% of the overall undocumented population — their lowest share in recent history.

Zoom in: Advocates have been urging lawmakers in Lansing to support a yearslong effort to reinstate driver's licenses for residents without legal citizenship.

  • Several groups lobbied lawmakers this year to reintroduce what advocates call the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy) package, which would allow undocumented individuals to obtain Michigan driver's licenses.
  • While the proposal lacked the Democratic support needed to reach a vote, Republican opponents of the bills have used the effort to attack Democrats.

Flashback: Deportations from Michigan shot up during the Trump administration, reversing a downward trend that started in 2008. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data shows annual statewide deportations increased from 386 in 2016 to 753 in 2019, before dropping to 350 in 2020, MLive reports.

  • There were more than 7,000 pending immigration cases in Michigan as of May 2021, according to Immigration Court data obtained by TRAC.

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