Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 2,855,287
Population (2000 CB est.) 2,233,169
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 268,306
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 158,664
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 9.4 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 5.7%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 83,880
Share Naturalized (2012) 31.3 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 52,202
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 15,683
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 100,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $452,957,318
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 4,268,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Utah in 2012 was 2,855,287 residents.

Between 2000 (population 2,233,169) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 50,785 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 1,722,850) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 51,032 residents. The annual average rate of change was 2.6 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 Utah was about 268,306 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 9.4 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 8,950 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 50,785  people. That is a 17.6  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 69.1 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 18.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 9,735 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 18,685 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 36.8 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 37.6 percent of Utah's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 57.2 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Utah'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 12.5 percent to 14.7 percent. In 2000, 41.7 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 36.3 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 67.9 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 71.7 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 83,880 residents of Utah, or 31.3 percent of the foreign-born population in Utah, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 48,178 residents, or 30.4 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 Utah's population resulting from net international migration has been about 11,595 people. It was 11.6 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 Utah were 603 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 882 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 6,199 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 Utah between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 145,182 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 Utah was 7,121 (2,583 pre-1982 residents and 4,538 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 Utah 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 http://www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/publications/yearbook.shtm) then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Utah has received 15,683 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 942 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

Utah Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $239.20 52.8%
LEP educ. $48.10 10.6%
Medicaid+ $57.70 12.7%
SCHIP $9.90 2.2%
Justice $53.80 11.9%
Welfare+ $14.80 3.3%
General $26.50 5.8%
Total $453.00  
Tax receipts $31.10  
Net Cost $421.90  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Utah as of 2010 was about 100,000 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 Utah 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 110,000 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 Utah 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 Utah, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 46,908) was 113.6 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 121.4 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Utah's population in 2050 likely would be between 4,167,000 million and 4,268,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (3,668,000) 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 Utah as 8,291 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


House Bill 116 (2011)

  • Allows unauthorized workers who live in the state of Utah (since before May 10, 2011) and who have not been convicted of serious felonies to obtain guest worker permits
  • Immediate family of individuals with guest worker permits are also eligible for permits.

The Utah Compact

  • The Compact states: (1) “Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries--not Utah and other countries...” and (2) “We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.”

City or County

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Police Department Press Release (June 19, 2013)

  • The Salt Lake City Police Chief opposes efforts to compel local law enforcement officers to engage in immigration enforcement activities….

City Council Minutes (November 16, 2010)

  • Salt Lake City adopted a motion expressing support for the Utah Compact, a declaration of five principles to guide Utah’s immigration discussion.

Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

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

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: Water is already a scarce resource in this desert state, and the increased demand generated by population growth is exacerbating the problem. The state's frequent water shortfalls means farmers' irrigation is cut when water is scarce.1 In 2001, some farmers faced harvest yields of up to 40 percent less than normal as a result. In response to the growing crisis, Utah's governor has asked residents to reduce their water use by 25 percent in the next several decades.2 The Jordan Valley District projects it will be unable to meet water needs by 2009. Weber Basin won't be able to meet its water needs by 2015. Salt Lake and Sandy Counties could run out of water by 2025.3

Hundreds of the state's waterways are polluted with silt and runoff from urban storm sewers, often killing wildlife and causing floods.4

Traffic: Utah highway traffic increased by 74 percent between 1990 and 2008, more than double the national average. Four in ten (40%) of its major urban highways are congested.5 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Utah residents increased from 19 minutes in 1990 to 20.8 minutes in 2008.6

Salt Lake City commuters each lost about 27 hours and 18 gallons of fuel due to congestion-related traffic delays in 2007.7 The average Salt Lake rush-hour commuter spent 20 hours in gridlock during 2000—versus three hours in 1980.8 About 9 percent of Utah commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.9

Road maintenance in Utah has not fully kept up with increased traffic. More than one-quarter (28%) of the state’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 15 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The typical Utah driver pays $197 each year in extra maintenance and operating costs due to road conditions.10

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Utah increased by 310,900 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 14,350 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.11 Utah's open spaces are being paved over to accommodate population growth; between 1990 and 1998, the state saw a 22 percent increase in housing construction, the second highest rate in the nation.12

Experts say that much of Utah's wilderness and its native species will vanish if conservation of resources and open space is not made an immediate priority.13

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 91.9 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Ogden metropolitan area, and 59.7 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Salt Lake City area sprawl consumed an additional 69.8 square miles and population increase accounted for 100 percent of the increase.14

Crowded Housing: An estimated 29,015 of Utah’s housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 3.5 percent of the state’s housing units. In addition, 4,390 were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.15 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). In the state, 23 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 10 percent of children with native-born parents.16

Air Pollution: As population increases, pollution usually rises along with it. Air along Utah's Wasatch Front is visibly polluted most days. Even the New York-New Jersey metro area has better air quality than the Salt Lake Valley when measured for carbon monoxide, one of the main components of unhealthy air.17 Utah County is not allowed to add any new roads because its air quality is already in violation of federal standards.18 Officials say that unless Salt Lake acts to limit sprawl and curb auto emissions, the city could soon be "obscured by a soup of pollutants."19

Of the nine Utah counties graded by the American Lung Association in 2010 for risk of high ozone exposure, six received an "F." Among these were Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties.20

Poverty: Utah’s immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 16.2 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 9.1 percent of native households. An additional 16.8 percent of the foreign-born and 7.9 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.21 31.4 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 10.3 percent of native children.22

Solid Waste: Utah generates 1.07 tons of solid waste per capita every year.23 If this rate does not change, projected population growth between 2008 and 2050 will add about 2 million tons of solid waste to the state’s annual output.

Schools: Between 1990 and 2009, public school enrollment in Utah increased by an estimated 126,348 students, or 28.3 percent.24 Enrollment is projected to grow by an additional 98,716 students between 2009 and 2018.25 Utah's student-teacher ratio of 22.1 ranks last in the U.S.26

The Alpine school district alone opened three new elementary schools in 2000. By the next year, those new schools already had seven portable classrooms and the district was beginning further construction to meet the still-increasing enrollment.27

Illegal Immigration in Utah

According to police records, illegal aliens were involved in 80 percent of Utah's arrests for felony-level narcotics violations in 1995.28


  1. Brent Istaelsen, "Running on Empty, Utah's Dry Spell Likely to Linger," Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 2001.
  2. Lynn Arave, "Leavitt Says Save Water, Pray For Rain," Deseret News, August 12, 2001.7. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Brent Istaelsen, "Running on Empty, Utah's Dry Spell Likely to Linger," Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 2001.
  5. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Utah’s Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  6. Table R0801, "Mean Travel Time to Work of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Did Not Work at Home (Minutes)," American Community Survey, 2008 estimates.  "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  8. Zack Van Eyck, "S.L. Ranks Low in Traffic Gridlock," Deseret News, June 22, 2002.
  9. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  10. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Utah’s Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  11. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  12. Maria Titze, " Utah No. 2 Nationally in Housing Growth," Deseret Sun, December 9, 1999.
  13. Phil Miller, "Growth in Utah: It's Coming No Matter What," Salt Lake Tribune, November 11, 1998.
  14. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  15. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  16. Kids Count Data Center, Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  17. Timothy Egan, "Urban Sprawl Strains Western States," New York Times, December 29, 2001.
  18. "Smog Clogs Plan to Widen U.S. 6," Deseret News, April 27, 2001.
  19. Timothy Egan, "Urban Sprawl Strains Western States," New York Times, December 29, 2001.
  20. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  21. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  22. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  23. Report Card for America 's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  24. "Table 4. Actual and projected numbers for enrollment in grades PK12 in public elementary and secondary schools, by region and state: Fall 2000 through fall 2018," National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education.
  25. "Table 34. Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, fall 1990 through fall 2009," Digest of Education Statistics, Department of Education.
  26. "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.
  27. Alpine Schools Expect Crowds," Daily Herald, August 18, 2001.
  28. Utah Gets Cash for Jailing, Salt Lake Tribune, December 6, 1996.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated December 2011