Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 2,758,931
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,998,257
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 580,090
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 316,593
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 21.0 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 12%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 228,471
Share Naturalized (2012) 39.4 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 105,994
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 10,588
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 200,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $1,191,163,407
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 9,106,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Nevada in 2012 was 2,758,931 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,998,257) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 62,096 residents. That was an annual average change of 2.7 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,201,833) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 79,642 residents. The annual average rate of change was 5.2 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 Nevada was about 580,090 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 21.0 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 21,510 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 62,096  people. That is a 34.6  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 83.2 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 42.0 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 15,215 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 36,725 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 59.1 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 32.3 percent of Nevada's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 44.0 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Nevada'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 23.1 percent to 49.3 percent. In 2000, 48.5 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 40.2 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 69.9 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 73.3 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 228,471 residents of Nevada, or 39.4 percent of the foreign-born population in Nevada, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 116,786 residents, or 36.9 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 Nevada's population resulting from net international migration has been about 19,985 people. It was 20.9 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 Nevada were 1523 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 686 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 11,139 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 Nevada between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 243,518 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 Nevada was 20,244 (11,160 pre-1982 residents and 9,084 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 Nevada 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


Nevada has received 10,588 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 470 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

Nevada Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $691.10 58.0%
LEP educ. $139.00 11.7%
Medicaid+ $149.70 12.6%
SCHIP $32.80 2.8%
Justice $152.00 12.8%
Welfare+ $9.50 0.8%
General $17.00 1.4%
Total $1,191.20  
Tax receipts $62.60  
Net Cost $1,128.60  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Nevada as of 2010 was about 200,000 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 Nevada was 260,000 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 190,000 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 Nevada 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 Nevada, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 73,498) was 181.6 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 131.7 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Nevada's population in 2050 likely would be between 8,854,000 million and 9,106,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (7,502,000) 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 Nevada as 2,360 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies

City or County


Resolution No. 2-04 (July 14, 2005)

  • “…an agency or instrumentality of Elko may not use State, County, or City resources or institutions for the enforcement of federal immigration matters, which are the responsibility of the federal government.…”


Resolution (November 11, 2005)

  • “…Silver City calls upon the Lyon County Commission as well as the duly elected Sheriff to publicly clarify that it will not…use state, county, or city resources or institutions for the enforcement of federal immigration matters, which are the responsibility of the federal government….”


Water: At the same time that Nevada’s looming water crisis is growing, the arid state is rapidly becoming more populated -- thereby exacerbating the problem. From 2000 to 2006 the state added nearly half a million residents (497,272), according to Census Bureau estimates increasing by 24.9 percent.1 Of that half-million increase in population, nearly one-third (32%) was the result of net foreign-born settlement in the state which rose by 50.3 percent. That compares with a 20.1 percent increase in the native-born population and that includes the children born to immigrants. Adding an estimate for the U.S-born children of the immigrants suggests that immigrant settlement in the state accounts for nearly half (47.9%) of the state’s current population increase.2 The net increase of nearly 160,000 foreign-born residents in the state between 2000 and 2006 has resulted in a likely increased water consumption of 43 to 50 million gallons of water per day.

With limited groundwater available, Nevada gets more than three-fourths (76%) of its water from surface sources, largely the Colorado River.3 Unfortunately, due to drought and global warming, the Colorado River has seen declining runoffs annually since the year 2000, making current consumption unsustainable.4 Already, the river does not have enough water to meet the state allocation requirements formed nearly a century ago by the seven states that rely on the Colorado’s water. Although rules exist for allocation during shortages, prolonged shortages are creating tension among the states.5  According to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lake Mead, the vast reservoir that collects water from the Colorado River and supplies Las Vegas, could be dry within thirteen years.6  According to a study by the Center for American Progress, Lake Mead is already “half-empty,” and statistical models indicate that the Lake will never reach its original status again.7

The decline of water resources is a foreboding harbinger for agriculture in Nevada. Due to a canal breach, and lower runoffs from the Sierra snowpack, farmers faced at least a ten percent decline in water allocations in the 2008 growing season. “Basically, less water means fewer crops, less production and less money. We are looking at some unpleasant financial circumstances,” said Nevada farmer Mario G. Peraldo.8

Finally, to help cure Las Vegas’ water woes, Nevada is seeking to install a 250 mile pipeline to the Snake Valley watershed which spans the Nevada-Utah border. The pipeline would divert as much as 16 billion gallons of water annually from the Snake Valley and pump it to Las Vegas. In addition to contributing to unsustainable consumption, the estimated 3.5 billion dollar project cost would certainly cause a surge in city water prices.9

Traffic: As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Nevada residents increased 17 percent during the 1990s to 23 minutes in 2000.This was a faster rate of increase than the national average of 14 percent.10,11 More than two-fifths (44%) of Nevada's major urban roads are congested. Vehicle travel on Nevada's highways increased 89% from 1990 to 2003. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Nevada motorists $120 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs $81 per motorist, and congestion in the Las Vegas area costs commuters $494 per person in excess fuel and lost time.12 Travelers in the Las Vegas area experience an annual delay of 30 hours.13  More than one-in-seven (16%) commuters in Nevada have a commute that is 45 minutes or more.14

Disappearing open space: Every year, Nevada loses 4,600 acres of prime farmland to development and suburban sprawl.15  More housing structures have been built in the past 12 years than any other time in the state’s history.16

Crowded housing: Studies show that a rise in crowded housing often correlates with an increase in the number of foreign-born.17,18 In 2005 over 34,000 Nevada households lived in crowded or severely crowded housing. 19

Air pollution:Nevada has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country, which has been linked to the state having the highest rate of adult asthma (13%).20 Clark County received a grade of “F” from the American Lung Association in its “State of the Air 2005” report.21

Schools: The enrollment of Nevada’s K-12 student population increased by over 86,000 students between 2000 and 2006 (26.7%) 22,23and is projected to increase by an additional 110,000 (26.9%) students by the year 2015.24  Nevada’s student-teacher ratio of 19 ranks 46th in the U.S.25

Nevada had an 83 percent increase in children aged 10-14 during the 1990s.The number of children aged 4 and younger increased by 58 percent. Las Vegas’ school enrollment doubled during the 1990s.26 Clark County school district (which includes Las Vegas) projects that it will add 10,000 to 15,000 students every year.27 Already, schools there are so crowded that students complain that they can’t find available restrooms in between classes.28 The average student-teacher ratio in the district’s secondary schools is 32:1; some classes have more than 40 students.29

Solid Waste: Nevada generates 1.55 tons of solid waste annually per capita.30



The booming Las Vegas casino sector is attracting large numbers of immigrants to the city. Despite a required police background check for new hires that bars most illegal aliens seeking casino jobs, the city, nevertheless, is attracting large numbers of illegal aliens working in hotels and other jobs not requiring advanced education or skill levels and paying low wages. The presence of a large number of illegal aliens is attested to by the spread of money transfer and check cashing operations and the growth of immigration consultant services.31

The flood of illegal aliens moving to southern Nevada is so large that the Las Vegas ICE office admits it can’t keep up. The Las Vegas ICE office has about the same number of staff it had ten years ago, despite the fact that agents have seen a 49 percent increase in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in the last five years.32

The large population of illegal aliens is straining the state’s health care and criminal justice infrastructure. Eighteen percent of Clark County residents do not have health insurance and rely on the valley’s crowded emergency room for routine care; health officials believe many are illegal aliens.33



  1. U.S. Census Bureau 2006.
  2. Jack Martin, “Issue Brief: Estimation of Foreign Born Birthrate,” FAIR, 2008.
  3. Janice Houston, Center for Public Policy and Administration, “Whiskey is for Drinking An analysis of Water Use in Nevada and Utah.” Transportation, Water, Energy Volume 2 Issue 10, November 29, 2006.
  4. Cary Blake, “Arizona faces potential water supply shortage from Colorado River by 2011,” Western Farm Press, December 6, 2007.
  5. Patty Henetz, “Utah’s water forecast: Thirsty times are a-brewin’,” The Salt Lake Tribune. May 31, 2008.
  6. Felicity Barringer, “Lake Mead Could be Within a Few Years of Going Dry, Study Finds.” New York Times. February 13, 2008.
  7. Daniel J. Weiss, Zoe Brown. “Learning the Worth of Water.” Center for American Progress. November 13, 2007.
  8. Associated Press, “Farmers upset over reduced flows in Nevada canal,” Reno-Gazette Journal. May 9, 2008.
  9. Henry Brean, “Groundwater Pumping: Pipeline obstacle looming,” Las Vegas Review Journal. June 2, 2008.
  10. “Table DP-1-4,Profile of General Demographic Characteristics:2000,” Census 2000,,U.S.Census Bureau
  11. “Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990,” 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  13. "The 2005 Urban Mobility Report", Texas Transportation Institute.
  14. “U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet,” Population Reference Bureau.
  15. “Senate Approach Would Speed Payments to Nevada Farmers for Farmland Conservation,” Environmental Working Group.
  16. “State’s Housing Market Grew During Past Decade,” Las Vegas Sun, May 16,2002.
  17. Haya El Nasser, “U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded,” USA Today, July 7,2002.
  18. Randy Capps, “Hardship among Children of Immigrants: Finding from the 1999 National Survey of America’s Families,” Urban Institute, 2001.
  19. “Nevada State Factsheet,” Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  20. Emily Richmond, “State has Highest Rate of Asthma in Country,” Las Vegas Sun ,August 17,2001.
  21. “State of the Air 2005: Nevada American Lung Association.
  22. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  23. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007.
  24. Projections of Education Statistics to 2015, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  25. "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007.
  26. Anjetta McQueen,“ A Crowded Century Ahead,” Associated Press ,August 25,2001.
  27. Genaro C. Armas, Baby Boomers’ Kids, Immigrants to Flood Nation’s High Schools,” Associated Press, May 24, 2001.
  28. Stacy Underhill, “Overcrowded Schools Pose Challenges for Students,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 26, 2000.
  29. Lisa Kim Bach, “New High Schools Scheduled to Open,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 5, 2002.
  30. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  31. Nancy Cleeland and Lee Romney,“ Latinos Find Luck in Vegas,” Los Angeles Times, November 30,1999.
  32. Kim Smith, “Border Squeeze Funnels Aliens to Vegas,” Las Vegas Sun, December 5,1999.
  33. Michael Squires, “Uninsured Tap Las Vegas Ers,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 23,2001.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated February 2012