Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 6,553,255
Population (2000 CB est.) 5,130,632
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 875,927
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 656,183
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 13.4 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 9.9%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 334,372
Share Naturalized (2012) 39.3 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 182,257
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 40,925
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 390,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $2,568,668,603
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 13,793,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Arizona in 2012 was 6,553,255 residents.

Between 2000 (population 5,130,632) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 116,132 residents. That was an annual average change of 2.0 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 3,665,228) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 146,540 residents. The annual average rate of change was 3.4 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Arizona was about 875,927 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 13.4 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 17,938 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 116,132 people. That is a 15.4  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 33.5 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 26.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 23,940 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 41,880 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 36 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 37.8 percent of Arizona's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 48.4 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Arizona's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 25.9 percent to 27.1 percent. In 2000, 43.9 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 34.1 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 76.6 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 80.4 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 334,372 residents of Arizona, or 39.3 percent of the foreign-born population in Arizona, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 193,944 residents, or 29.6 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Arizona's population resulting from net international migration has been about 40,470 people. It was 17.6 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Arizona were 446 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 3,615 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 19,729 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Arizona between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 500,807 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Arizona was 82,649 (29,261 pre-1982 residents and 53,388 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Arizona between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Arizona has received 40,925 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 2,234 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Arizona Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $1,390.50 54.1%
LEP educ. $279.60 10.9%
Medicaid+ $259.80 10.1%
SCHIP $60.50 2.4%
Justice $339.70 13.2%
Welfare+ $85.50 3.3%
General $153.00 6.0%
Total $2,568.70  
Tax receipts $142.80  
Net Cost $2,425.90  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Arizona as of 2010 was about 390,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Arizona was 350,000 in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000 .

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 400,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Arizona are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Arizona, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 116,506) was 93.0 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 126.7 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Arizona's population in 2050 likely would be between 13,401,000 million and 13,793,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (11,356,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Arizona as 13,322 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Arizona since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies

City or County


Chandler Police Department General Orders: E-17 Immigration Enforcement/Foreign Nationals (September 19, 2012)

  • If reasonable suspicion exists that the individual is an illegal alien, the officer shall not extend detention in order to wait for ICE. If ICE notifies police that the detainee has only civil charges (not criminal), then the officer must let the detainee go.
  • If, during the stop or detention of a person (“detainee”), an officer develops reasonable suspicion to believe a detainee is unlawfully present, the officer should make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the immigration status of individuals with ICE/CBP EXCEPT (1) when it is not practical and (2) when the determination would hinder or obstruct an investigation.


Mesa Police Department Special Order 2009-01: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Protocol (January 1, 2009)

  • “While the investigation and enforcement of federal laws relating to illegal entry and residence in the United States is specifically assigned to ICE, the MPD commits to cooperating with ICE and others, to the extent permitted by law on any criminal act that threatens the safety and well-being of our community. In enforcing the laws, officers may legally stop, detain or arrest anyone when reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists that a crime has occurred.”
  • “...department personnel shall not ask person who is a victim of a crime, a witness to a crime, a juvenile..., stopped and/or cited for a civil traffic violation with a valid driver’s license or evidence of identity pursuant to ARS 28-1595(B), seeking medical assistance, a victim of domestic violence incident, or a community volunteer in police service...about his or her immigration status.”
  • “Arizona law authorizes police officers to enforce provisions of the criminal law. The authorization is limited to criminal and does not include civil. Therefore, officers shall not transport for civil violations or continue to detain if the only violation is a civil DRO hold.”


Phoenix Police Department Operations Order Manual

  • Order 1.4 (January 2011): “The investigation and enforcement of federal laws relating to illegal entry and residence in the United States is specifically assigned to ICE. The goal of the Department is to ensure the safety of all residents of Phoenix. The Department provides law enforcement services and enforces the laws of the City of Phoenix and the State of Arizona, as well as upholds the United States Constitution.”
  • Order 4.48 (Rev. Aug. 2013): “The only time an officer will transport a person to ICE is: 1. If ICE verifies the person is wanted for a CRIMINAL IMMIGRATION violation AND the person is NOT under arrest for a State Criminal Charge, (includes criminal traffic, CLD) or; 2. The person has a civil immigration violation only and CONSENTS to a transport.”

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • The Mayor of Phoenix joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

San Luis

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • San Luis joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Tucson Police Department General Order, Volume 2 General Operating Procedures: 2300 Immigration (September 2012)

  • Tucson Police Officers are instructed to exercise discretion in making immigration status inquiries during consensual contacts or with victims and witnesses of crime.
  • If any valid U.S. federal, state or local government issued identification is presented, it is presumed the detainee is lawfully in the U.S.
  • Officers will not transport for civil violations or continue to detain if the only violation is a civil DRO hold.

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • Tucson joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

Water: Through a series of conservation efforts, Arizona residents have been able to bring down daily per capita water use from 154 gallons to 115 since 2000, a sizeable 26% reduction.1 Nevertheless, population growth and dwindling water resources challenge the notion that Arizona can continue to expand with unchecked growth. "I have no doubt that within the next five to ten years, we will be in a shortage," said David Modeer, Tucson, Arizona's Water Director. "It does not look good."2

Even with the reduction in water use, at 115 gallons per person, per day, public demand in 2050 may increased by up to 850 million gallons each day. Without a doubt, supplying water to this expanding population will put Arizona in a predicament in the near future. The problem arises because most surface water supplies are completely allocated and groundwater is being consumed at an unsustainable rate.3

Making the looming water crisis direr, historic prioritizing of water rights means that Arizona will be the first state to suffer whenever the surface water resource of the Colorado River comes up short. Arizona currently gets one-third of its water from the Colorado River. But as the river dries, Arizona will lose up to eighty percent of this resource before neighboring states incur any significant loss.4 Unfortunately, reduced runoff into the Colorado River has occurred annually since 2000.5

Traffic: Vehicle traffic on Arizona highways increased by 71 percent between 1990 and 2008, double the national average. One-fifth (20%) of roads in Arizona were assessed to be in poor or mediocre condition in 2010, and 12 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete.6 Phoenix is one of the most congested urban areas in the U.S. The average commuter was delayed by 44 hours and used an additional 31 gallons of gas due to traffic conditions in 2007. Tuscon commuters experienced similar delays, logging 41 hours per driver in delays and burning through 26 gallons of fuel. Between the two urban areas, wasted fuel and time cost commuters a total of $2.3 billion in 2007.7

As population growth puts more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Arizona residents increased 15 percent during the 1990s, to 22 minutes in 2000. This was a faster rate of increase than the national average of 14 percent.8 Nationwide, the amount of travel in urban areas that was not congested dropped from 74 percent in 1982 to 45 percent in 2007. Prevalence of severe congestion nearly tripled, and the peak period of work-related congestion dubbed “rush hour” has more than doubled in length since 1982.9 About 14 percent of Arizona commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.10

Phoenix is now the fifth most congested area in the country,11 with roads so congested that the fire department has trouble reaching accident victims—and is considering adding motorcycles to its fleet to speed up response times.12 Despite a $122 million plan to widen Interstate 10, state transportation officials say the freeway will be "bumper to bumper," with more cars than road space by 2025 because of population growth.13

Air Quality: More than half of Arizona counties assessed for ozone risk by the American Lung Association in 2010 received an “F.” No county received an “A.”14

Solid Waste: Arizona generates 1.1 tons of solid waste per capita each year.15 If this solid waste production does not change, and the state's population continues to grow as projected, the states production of solid wastes will increase by an additional 8.3 million tons per year.

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Arizona increased by 988,100 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 61,820 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.16 As Arizona's population has risen, so has the need for additional housing: The total number of housing units in Arizona increased by 32 percent during the 1990s and 16 percent between 2000 and 2005.17 This has led to dramatic losses of open space; Maricopa County, home to more than 60 percent of the state's population, consumes an acre of farmland every hour.18

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 353.6 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and 92.0 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Chattanooga metro area sprawl consumed an additional 141.8 square miles and population increase accounted for 79.1 percent of the increase.19

National Parks: Migrant smuggling is causing serious harm to the fragile ecosystems and natural resources in southeastern Arizona, a recent government report found. It reported that wilderness areas are being damaged by the creation of unwanted trails and roads, damage to existing trails, and large amounts of trash: "This proliferation of trails damages and destroys cactus and other sensitive vegetation, disrupts or prohibits revegetation, disturbs wildlife and their cover and travel routes, causes soil compaction and erosion, impacts stream bank stability, and often times confuses legitimate users of trails on federal lands."20

Trash and human waste left behind by illegal immigrants also affect soil and water quality.21 It is estimated that each undocumented immigrant crossing the border into the United States discards at least eight pounds of trash in southern Arizona, where thousands of acres are covered in trash.22

An environmental impact study of the damage to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where officials caught 200,000 illegal aliens in 2001, finds that it could take 20 years for the area to recover from damage wrought by smugglers and illegal aliens trekking through. 200 miles of unauthorized roads have been carved into the park's wilderness.23

Crowded housing: An estimated 99,031 of Arizona's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 4.4 percent of the state's housing units. 28,963 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room. Per housing unit, the state's rate of crowded housing is nearly 150 percent of the national average and trails only Hawaii, California, Texas and New York.24 Following the national trend, crowded housing rates were driven upward by immigration. 28 percent of Arizona's children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 13 percent of children with native-born parents.25

Arizona is home to some of the most crowded cities in the nation. Seven of Arizona's eight metropolitan areas with more than 65,000 people were in the top 100 nationally in prevalence of crowded housing, and all eight were within the top half. The Show Low area is third nationally in rate of severe crowding fifth nationally crowded housing, and Flagstaff and Yuma were both among the 25 most crowded cities.

Crime: The population growth in Arizona's prison system ranks among the top four states in the country, and the population in Arizona's prisons is expected to increase by 52 percent by 2017.26 Arizona has 4,000 more prisoners than the system was designed to handle which has forced officials to transfer 1,200 inmates to Indiana.27

Poverty: Arizona's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 21.5 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 12.8 percent of native households. An additional 15.1 percent of the foreign-born and 8.5 percent of native households had incomes between 100 and 149 percent of the poverty level.28 34.5 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 17.5 percent of native children. 29

School Overcrowding: Nearly one-third, or 31 percent, of Arizona's children have immigrant parents. Seven percent are themselves foreign-born.30 This influx of immigrants and their children is contributing to severe school overcrowding problems in the state. Public school enrollment in Arizona increased by about 255,000 students between 1998 and 2008. Over the same period, the number of students per teacher increased from 19.0 to 19.7, the third-worst ratio in the country. Nationally, only two other states had fewer teachers per student in 2008 than in 1998.31

In Phoenix, schools are so crowded that some students are attending classes in a former mall and in a converted grocery store.32 In Mesa, schools have even run out of room for classroom trailers, over 700 elementary school students attend classes in an old grocery store.33 In Gilbert, which is growing faster than any U.S. community its size, schools are so crowded that some students went without desks and cafeteria tables at the start of the 2003-04 school year.34

Illegal Immigration: In some areas, such as Douglas, residents are so fearful of alien smugglers that they say they avoid going out alone at night.35 In Cochise County, which shares 84 miles of border with Mexico, problems associated with illegal immigration cost residents 37 cents of every tax dollar they pay (according to the county's sheriff).36 Approximately ten percent of the county's health department budget goes toward treatment of illegal aliens.37


  1. Harold Kitching, "Quenching Growth," Casa Grande Valley Newspaper, May 6, 2008.
  2. Tony Raap, Experts fear water shortage from Colorado River to strive earlier than predicted," Today’s News, February 26, 2007.
  3. Robert Glennon & Michael J. Pearce, "Transferring Mainstem Colorado River Water Rights: The Arizona Experience," Arizona Law Review: Volume 49, 2007.
  4. Tony Raap, Experts fear water shortage from Colorado River to strive earlier than predicted," Today’s News, February 26, 2007
  5. Cary Blake, "Arizona faces potential water supply shortage from Colorado River by 2011," Western Farm Press, December 6, 2007
  6. The Road Information Project, “Key Facts About Arizona’s Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding,” May 2010.
  7. Texas Transportation Institute, “Urban Mobility Report 2009.”
  8. Tony Raap, “Experts fear water shortage from Colorado River to strive earlier than predicted," Today’s News, February 26, 2007. Cary Blake, "Arizona faces potential water supply shortage from Colorado River by 2011," Western Farm Press, December 6, 2007
  9. Texas Transportation Institute, “Urban Mobility Report 2009,” p 8-9, 22-24
  10. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  11. Katie Warchut, "Freeways Ease Congestion, But More Crops Up," Arizona Republic, October 1, 2003.
  12. Judi Villa, "Fire Dept. Mulls Motorcycle Medics," Arizona Republic, August 25, 2003.
  13. Garry Duffy, "I-10 Gridlock," Tucson Citizen, February 24, 2004
  14. American Lung Association, “State of the Air 2010.”
  15. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  16. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, “Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory.”
  17. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
    "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
    "Data Set: 2005 American Community Survey: Arizona 2005," American Factfinder,   U.S. Census Bureau.
  18. Jon Kamman, "3.1 Million More People Likely in Arizona by 2020," Arizona Republic, January 8, 2002.
  19. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  20. Report to the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations on Impacts Caused by Undocumented Aliens Crossing Federal Lands in Southeast Arizona, a joint project by the Immigration & Naturalization Service, the Interior Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency, April 29, 2002.
  21. "Environmental  Damage from Illegal Immigration, Border Enforcement Activities In American SouthWest,", California Political Desk, February 1, 2006.
  22. "A Summary of 2003 - 2005 Accomplishments," Southern Arizona Project to Mitigate Environmental Damages Resulting from Illegal Immigration. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.  Report to the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations on Impacts Caused by Undocumented Aliens Crossing Federal Lands in Southeast Arizona, a joint project by the Immigration & Naturalization Service, the Interior Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency, April 29, 2002.
  23. Mary Jo Pitzl, "Increased Illegal Crossings Strain Organ Pipe to Limit," Arizona Republic, January 14, 2004.
  24. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  25. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  26. Dennis Welch, "Bulging prison bill going up," East Valley/Scottsdale Tribune, February 7, 2007.
    "Arizona's Prison Population Projected to Grow Twice as fast as General Resident Population, Independent Study Finds; State Selected as One of Five Justice Reinvestment Learning Sites," Justice Center of the Council of State Governments, February 6, 2007.
  27. "Will Rising Prison Costs Spark Reform?" Tucson Weekly, March 22, 2007.
  28. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  29. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  30. "Arizona State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  31. NEA, “Rankings and Estimates,” 1999 and 2009 editions.
  32. "Districts Ease School Overcrowding with Abandoned Commercial Buildings," Associated Press, August 2, 2000.
  33. Haya El Nasser, "Schools Forced to Roam in Search of More Room," USA Today, August 18, 2000.
  34. Stephanie Paterik, "Old West Takes Off-Ramp," Arizona Republic, December 2003.
  35. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center foe Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007
  36. "Arizona Lawmakers Get Earful on Border Issues," Associated Press, October 31, 2001.
  37. "Social, Financial Costs of Illegal Entry Said High," Associated Press, May 18, 2001.