Over 60 percent of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are concentrated in just 20 major metropolitan areas, a far higher proportion than U.S. residents as a whole who live in urban areas, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday.
In 2014, these 20 metro areas were home to 6.8 million, or 61 percent, of the nation’s undocumented immigrants, compared to 36 percent of the total U.S. population, the report said. The concentrations of undocumented immigrants in urban areas mirror that of lawful immigrants, 65 percent of whom also live in these 20 metropolitan areas.
Earlier analyses have found undocumented immigrants to be concentrated in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. The numbers released Thursday reflect these statewide results, but give a more granular picture.
The flocking of undocumented immigrants to metropolitan areas belies the image of undocumented immigrants as employed in typically rural jobs, such as agriculture.
“The agricultural workers are a very small fraction of the 11 million,” said Jeffrey Passel, an author of the study, adding that although a high proportion of agricultural workers are unauthorized immigrants, they are far outnumbered by those who work in construction or service jobs that are more prevalent in more densely populated areas.
California is home to five metro areas that have among the largest number of undocumented immigrants. Texas has three metro areas on the list. The largest single undocumented immigrant population in the country is in the New York metropolitan area, home to 1.15 million.
Some of these metropolises have identified as “sanctuary cities,” pledging not to cooperate with federal officials in identifying undocumented immigrants. President Trump has said he will cut federal funding to such cities if they do not comply to federal mandates.
Although they reside in metro areas, undocumented immigrants do not necessarily live within city limits. In all but one of the top 20 metro areas, Phoenix, most unauthorized immigrants were living in the suburbs. This could affect the ability of cities to protect the immigrants from actions by the federal government, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
“This may raise questions of whether or not the sanctuary status is an umbrella one that covers the whole region,” he said.
The Washington metro area, which includes parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, has the seventh-highest number of unauthorized immigrants, 400,000. That is 29 percent of the area’s foreign-born population and 6.8 percent of the total population. Only around 25,000 live within the District, which has said it will be a sanctuary city.
Miami’s metro area, by contrast, has 450,000 unauthorized immigrants, but that is only 18 percent of the foreign-born population and 7.3 percent of the total.
The Houston metro area had the highest portion of residents who are unauthorized, at 8.7 percent.