Politics

South Florida ranks No. 5 in undocumented immigrant population, study finds

Protesters demonstrated outside County Hall on Jan. 31 after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez abandoned a policy effectively making the county a sanctuary for immigrants in the country illegally.
Protesters demonstrated outside County Hall on Jan. 31 after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez abandoned a policy effectively making the county a sanctuary for immigrants in the country illegally. pportal@elnuevoherald.com

South Florida is home to nearly half a million immigrants who are in the country illegally, making it the metropolitan area with the fifth-largest undocumented population in the United States, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

About 450,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, Pew found, based on 2014 estimates from government data. About 55,000 live in the city of Miami alone.

President Donald Trump has promised to crack down on illegal immigration, signing an executive order last month to cut federal funding for cities and counties considered “sanctuaries” for the undocumented. To avoid the label, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez quickly agreed to hold inmates in local jails for federal immigration agents even if the feds refuse to reimburse the county for the expense — a contentious policy reversal that has been met with protests.

South Florida trails other major urban centers that attract scores more of undocumented immigrants. Leading the list are New York and Los Angeles, with 1.2 million and 1 million, respectively. In third and fourth place are Houston (575,000) and Dallas (475,000).

Analyzing data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Pew found that most of the country’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants live clustered in 20 cities that, unsurprisingly, also attract large numbers of lawful immigrants. In 2014, those 20 cities were home to about 6.8 million of the undocumented — a concentration of about 61 percent, compared to 36 percent of the total U.S. population living there.

While unauthorized immigrants made up 3.5 percent of the total national population in 2014, that share was higher — 7.3 percent — in South Florida. However, while the undocumented accounted for about 25 percent of all foreign-born residents nationally that year, the share was smaller — 18 percent — in South Florida.

Many of South Florida’s foreign-born residents are Cubans who, until recently, were afforded a special immigration status that allowed them to remain legally in the country upon arrival — a privilege offered to no other foreign nationals who in the same situation would have likely had no legal status.

The only other Florida metro area to crack the top 20 list was Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, where an estimated 110,000 undocumented immigrants live. Much of the recent immigration to Central Florida has come from Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens.

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