Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 1,329,192
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,274,923
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 47,095
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 36,691
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 3.5 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 2.8%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 25,188
Share Naturalized (2012) 53.5 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 14,474
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 3,243
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 5,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $41,271,834
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 1,480,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Maine in 2012 was 1,329,192 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,274,923) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 4,430 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.3 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,227,928) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 4,700 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.4 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 Maine was about 47,095 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 3.5 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 849 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 4,430  people. That is a 19.2  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 28.4 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 7.0 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 920 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 1,765 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 39.9 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 39.6 percent of Maine's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 28.3 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Maine'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 7.8 percent to 7.1 percent. In 2000, 25.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 23.8 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 14.1 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 8.3 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 25,188 residents of Maine, or 53.5 percent of the foreign-born population in Maine, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 20,252 residents, or 55.2 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 Maine's population resulting from net international migration has been about 1,045 people. It was 37.9 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 Maine were 7 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 1,423 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 1,521 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 Maine between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 52,363 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 Maine was 286 (72 pre-1982 residents and 214 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 Maine 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


Maine has received 3,243 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 203 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

Maine Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $18.70 45.3%
LEP educ. $3.80 9.2%
Medicaid+ $2.00 4.8%
SCHIP $0.90 2.2%
Justice $3.50 8.5%
Welfare+ $4.50 10.9%
General $8.00 19.4%
Total $41.30  
Tax receipts $1.30  
Net Cost $40.00  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Maine as of 2010 was about 5,000 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 Maine was n/a 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 <10,000 as of>

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 Maine 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 Maine, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 5,112) was 186.0 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 90.4 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Maine's population in 2050 likely would be between 1,464,000 million and 1,480,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (1,398,000) 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 Maine as 1,415 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


Executive Order No. 13 FY 04/05 (April 9, 2004)

  • No State employee shall disclose confidential information related to an individual’s immigration status unless: “(i) the individual to whom such information pertains is suspected…of engaging in illegal activity, other than mere status as an undocumented alien; or (ii) the dissemination of such information is necessary to apprehend a person suspected of engaging in illegal activity, other than mere status as an undocumented alien; or (iii) such disclosure is necessary in furtherance of an investigation of potential terrorist activity; or (iv) such disclosure is required by law.”
  • State employees shall not inquire about immigration status unless: (1) such information is necessary to determine eligibility for benefits or programs; (2) such information is required by law; or (3) such information is necessary to safeguard public health.
  • “All State agencies with law enforcement, investigative or prosecutorial authority shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless investigating or prosecuting illegal activity other than mere status as an undocumented alien.”

City or County


Ordinance No. 2-21 (January 6, 2010)

  • “Unless otherwise required by law or by court order, no city police officer or employee shall inquire into the immigration status of any person, or engage in activities for the purpose of ascertaining the immigration status of any person.”
  • City police officers and employees are exempted from the limitations imposed by the subsection above with respect to a person whom the officer or employee has reasonable suspicion to believe: (1) has previously been deported from the United States; and (2) is again present in the United States; and (3) is committing or has committed a felony (Class A, B or C) criminal law violation.

Population Profile

Maine's small towns are concerned about losing their character to growth. Eliot, population 6,000, is feeling the pressure of spreading development from Portsmouth, N.H. to the south and Biddeford/Saco and Portland to the north. In response, Eliot was one of the first Maine towns to adopt a building cap limiting the number of new homes that can be built in a year. Towns throughout southern Maine are now following Eliot's example.1

Spotlight: Lewiston

In the fall of 2002, Lewiston Mayor Larry Raymond drafted an open letter to Somali leaders, pleading with them to help stop the influx of immigrants to the small town. "The large number of new arrivals cannot continue without negative results for all. The Somali community must exercise some discipline and reduce the stress on our limited finances and generosity," he wrote. "Only with your help will we be successful in the future — please pass the word: We have been overwhelmed and have responded valiantly. Now we need breathing room. Our city is maxed out financially, physically, and emotionally."

The letter came after more than 1,000 Somalis moved to the small city — population 36,000 — in an 18-month period. (Most had been placed in Atlanta by the federal government as refugees, but then chose to move to Lewiston, drawn by its safety and smaller size.)

Lewiston quickly became overwhelmed by the needs of the newcomers: City officials said the influx strained social services such as welfare, job training, and language classes. Somalis make up a third of all tenants at the city's largest public housing complex. More than a quarter of the families on the waiting list for public housing are Somali. Only about half the adults have found jobs. The city has doubled its general assistance budget (which provides food, housing, utilities, and medicine), has earmarked about one percent of its budget for services for the Somalis, and has cobbled together federal and state grants.

Lewiston's assistant city administrator said that the property tax rate has now grown so high that every dollar spent must receive careful scrutiny. The city also worries what may happen if state and federal aid shrinks in upcoming years. Governor Angus King Jr. has since announced the formation of a task force on immigration and refugee issues, noting that Lewiston faces a situation that "would be difficult for any community."

Some recent press coverage has taken a more positive stance toward the influx of Somali immigrants that is not justified by economic data. Most notable is a Newsweek article that highlights the dramatic increase in English language learners and the emergence of Somali-oriented businesses as evidence that immigration had "saved" the town.2 A broader look at Lewiston's economic situation demonstrates that this is clearly not the case. In April 2008, the Maine Department of Labor issued a report finding that less than 10 percent of Somali immigrants to the town had stable employment, and that most earned extremely low wages. About 30 percent find part-time employment, leaving the majority without any type of job.3 The massive influx of cheap, unutilized workers creates a golden opportunity for corporations that thirst for opportunities to lower wages and exploit cheap labor, something that Newsweek failed to mention in highlighting a business-oriented magazine's designation of Lewiston as a good place to do business.

The drain on public coffers by Somali immigrants in Lewiston is not a new issue in the state. Indeed, a study conducted at Bates College reports that the influx of Somalis arriving in Lewiston started because "Portland's public housing...could not meet demand from the newcomers.4 Even by 2003, before the largest influxes, Somali immigrants made up two-thirds of the Hillview public housing complex, Lewiston's largest.5 Somali immigration peaked in 2005, when Somali Bantu immigrants who tend to be even less educated than their predecessors began settling in Lewiston.6

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Crowded Housing: An estimated 6,123 of Maine's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.1 percent of the state's housing units. In addition, 1,504 units were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.7 4 percent of the state's children live in crowded housing.8 Nationwide, children in immigrant families were three times as likely to live in crowded conditions as children in native families (27 percent to 9 percent).9

Maine's crowded housing problem is most severe in the Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan area, whose rate of crowding more than doubles the state average. It is the state's only metropolitan area that ranks in the top half of crowded areas nationwide. In fact, all of Maine's other metro areas rank among the 100 least crowded in the nation, out of more than 800 with at least 20,000 people.10

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Maine increased by 344,300 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 14,640 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.11 Between 1982 and 1997, the amount of farm and forest land converted to urban uses in metropolitan Portland increased by 108 percent. Only eight other metropolitan areas in the nation saw a greater increase than Portland.12

Sprawl: Local and state officials involved in regional planning say that Maine will be a very different state by 2050. Southern Maine, according to the State Planning Office, will become so urbanized that it will become an extension of Boston.13

Traffic: Traffic on Maine highways increased by 21 percent between 1990 and 2008.14 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Maine residents increased 16 percent during the 1990s, to 23 minutes in 2000, and to 23.3 in 2005.15 In some towns, it's substantially higher; in Bradford, where the population has increased more than 33 percent since 1980, the average commute was 41 minutes in 2000, up from 31 minutes in 1990.16 About 13 percent of Maine commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.17

Over one fourth (27%) of the state's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 33 percent of its bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Motorists pay the price of overdue road maintenance. The typical Maine driver pays $245 in extra maintenance and operational costs each year due to road conditions.18

Air pollution: As population increases, air pollution is on the rise in the state. In 2001, Maine recorded more bad air days, with ozone at dangerously high levels, than at any time in the past 13 years, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.19

Of the 11 Maine counties included in the American Lung Association's 2010 assessment of the frequency of high ozone days, six received a "D" or "F" and four were graded "C."20

Water: By 2050 the state's population is expected to rise from 1.3 million in 2006 to 1.5 million.21 Maine has a daily, per-capita water demand of 80.0 gallons.22 This means that by 2050 public water usage will have increased by 16 million gallons each day.

Poverty: Maine's immigrants are much more likely to be poor than natives. In 2007, 18.4 percent of the state's foreign-born households were poor, compared to just 11.8 percent of natives. An additional 10.1 percent of the foreign-born and 8.4 percent of native households were not in poverty, but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.23

Solid Waste: Maine generates 1.03 tons of solid waste per capita each year.24

Schools: From 1990 and 2008, public school enrollment in Maine's public schools increased by 18 percent, surpassing 250,000.25 If this trend continues, communities may find themselves struggling with the overcrowding plaguing many other states.

Immigration and Employment Issues

Maine businesses employ up to 8,000 migrant and foreign workers at any given time.26 The state Department of Labor is supposed to certify that companies seeking to bring in foreign workers under the federal H2B program (for nonskilled, non-agricultural workers) have made a genuine effort to hire U.S. citizens. The number of H2Bs in Maine has grown in the last six years from 50 to 1,200. An application has never been denied.27


  1. "Sprawl Communities," Maine Sunday Telegram, July 29, 2001.
  2. Newsweek, "The Refugees who Saved Lewiston," January 16 2009.
  3. "Employment Patterns of Somali Immigrants," Center for Workforce Research and Information, Maine Department of Labor, April 2008.
  4. "Perceived Barriers to Somali Immigrant Employment in Lewiston", Bates College, Fall 2008
  5. Somali Community Services of Maine, "Preliminary Needs Assessment and Action Plan," October 15, 2003.
  6. "Employment Patterns of Somali Immigrants," Op.cit (peak influx). "Perceived Barriers to Somali Immigrant Employment in Lewiston," Op.cit (trend toward Bantu immigrants).
  7. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  8. Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  9. Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  10. American Community Survey, 2006-08 Three Year Estimates. Data retrieved using custom data too.
  11. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  12. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  13. "Sprawl Rate Among Worst in U.S.," Portland Press Herald, July 24, 2001.
  14. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Maine's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  15. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau. "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2005" Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  16. Susan Young, "More Maine Commuters Drive Farther, Dodge Car Pools to Satisfy Lifestyles, Jobs," BangorDaily News, May 25, 2002.
  17. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  18. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Maine's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  19. Shawn O'Leary, "State Foresees Major Sprawl by 2050," Bangor Daily News, March 16, 2001.
  20. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  21. Jack Martin and Stanley Fogel. "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050." FAIR. March 2006.
  22. U.S. Geological Survey 2000.
  23. Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute
  24. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers
  25. "Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: Fall 1988 to fall 2002", National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2003 figures, Table 37. "Maine - S1401. School Enrollment", American Community Survey, 2006-08 Three-Year Estimates.
  26. Edward D. Murphy, "Migrants Indispensable to State's Economy," Maine Sunday Telegram, September 22, 2002.
  27. Bruce Kyle, "Sometimes Even and Inverted Pyramid Misses the Point," Bangor Daily News, October 5, 2002.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated January 2012