Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 1,005,141
Population (2000 CB est.) 902,195
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 18,344
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 16,396
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 1.8 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.7%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 10,413
Share Naturalized (2012) 56.8 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 5,007
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 223
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 5,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $31,936,165
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 1,146,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Montana in 2012 was 1,005,141 residents.

Between 2000 (population 902,195) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 8,404 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.9 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 799,065) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 10,313 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.2 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 Montana was about 18,344 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 1.8 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 160 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 8,404  people. That is a 1.9  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 11.9 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 3.6 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 430 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 585 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 7.0 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 43.6 percent of Montana's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 29.0 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Montana'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 5.2 percent to 4.3 percent. In 2000, 28.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 24.8 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 35.6 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 38.9 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 10,413 residents of Montana, or 56.8 percent of the foreign-born population in Montana, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 9,482 residents, or 57.8 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 Montana's population resulting from net international migration has been about 835 people. It was 5.6 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 Montana were 30 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 395 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 513 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 Montana between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 21,225 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 Montana was 227 (87 pre-1982 residents and 140 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 Montana 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


Montana has received 223 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1 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

Montana Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $16.00 50.2%
LEP educ. $3.20 10.0%
Medicaid+ $2.00 6.3%
SCHIP $0.70 2.2%
Justice $2.60 8.2%
Welfare+ $2.60 8.2%
General $4.70 14.7%
Total $31.90  
Tax receipts $0.90  
Net Cost $31.00  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 3,804) was 94.7 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 90.3 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Montana's population in 2050 likely would be between 1,140,000 million and 1,146,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (1,108,000) 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 Montana as 1,607 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


Senate Joint Resolution No. 19 (April 2005)

  • Agencies and instrumentalities of the state shall not “…use state resources or institutions for the enforcement of federal immigration matters that are the responsibility of the federal government….”

City or County

Butte-Silver Bow County

Resolution No. 05-8 (February 16, 2005)

  • “…the Council affirms its support of law enforcement practices currently followed by the City-County, including how the City-County…refrains from using City-County resources to enforce federal immigration laws which are the responsibility of the federal government, except when an alien has been detained or arrested on suspicion of a criminal offense….”


Resolution No. 19181 (December 6, 2004)

  • “The Commission of the City of Helena, Montana…AFFIRMS its support of policing currently followed by the City of Helena, including how the City…refrains from using city resources to enforce federal immigration laws which are the responsibility of the federal government, except when an alien has been detained or arrested on suspicion of a criminal offense.…”


Traffic: As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Montana residents increased 15 percent during the 1990s, from 15 minutes to 17.3 minutes in 2005 1, 2

7 percent of commuters have a commute that is 45 minutes or more. 3

Disappearing open space: Each year, Montanaloses 15,300 acres of open space and farmland due to development.4

The endangered grizzly bear makes its home in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. However, the Sierra Club has noted that the fastest growing threat to grizzly bear habitat is development in communities near Yellowstone.5 In fact, Yellowstone National Park now ranks as one of the most endangered national parks, according to the National Park and Conservation Association.6

The potential for development could decimate bird population, according to Montana State University researchers.7

Crowded housing: Over 7,000 Montanahouseholds are defined as crowded or severely crowded. 8 Studies show that a rise in crowded housing often correlates with an increase in the number of foreign-born.9, 10

Poverty: In 2005 13.9 percent of immigrants in Montanahad incomes below the poverty level.11

Education: Between 1990 and 2000, Montana's elementary and high school enrollment increased nine percent.12 Between 2002 and 2012, public school enrollment is expected to increase six percent, to 164,000.13

One local school has become so overcrowded that a makeshift classroom has been set up on the school's stage. The school district's manager notes that "one of the things Canyon Creek has a tradition of is small classroom sizes, and we aren't able to do that now".14


  1. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990 and 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Selected Social Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  4. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. "Sierra Club Says Rapid Growth Top Threat to Grizzly Bear Habitat," Associated Press, November 23, 1999.
  6. H. Josef Herbert, "Groups Labels 10 Federal Parts the Most ‘Endangered,'" Associated Press, April 6, 2000.
  7. Brandon Loomis, "Big Sky Still Plentiful in Montana, But Solitude Becomes Harder to Find," Salt Lake Tribune, March 9, 2001.
  8. Selected Housing Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  9. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 7, 2002.
  10. Randy Capps, "Hardship Among Children of Immigrants: Findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  11. "Montana State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  12. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990 and 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  13. "Table 4 — Enrollment in Grades K-12 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, by Region and State, With Projections: Fall 1994 to Fall 2012," National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core Data, U.S. Department of Education.
  14. Susan Olp, "Out of Space," Billings Gazette, October 14, 2001.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated February 2012