Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 4,822,023
Population (2000 CB est.) 4,447,100
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 163,679
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 87,772
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 3.4%
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.9%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2011 CB est.): 56,167
Share Naturalized (2011) 34.3 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 32,034
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 1,370
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 125,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $297,639,883
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 5,601,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Alabama in 2012 was 4,822,023 residents.

Between 2000 (population 4,447,100) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 30,606 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.7 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 4,040,587) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 40,651 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.0 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 Alabama was about 163,679 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 3.4 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 6,196 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 30,606  people. That is a 20.2  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 86.5 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 6.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 4,115 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 10,315 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 33.7 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 69.6 percent of Alabama's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 53.0 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Alabama'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 3.9 percent to 5.2 percent. In 2000, 39.3 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 47.2 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 66.3 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 76.5 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 2011 indicate that 56,167 residents of Alabama, or 34.3 percent of the foreign-born population in Alabama, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 32,200 residents, or 36.7 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2011.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Alabama's population resulting from net international migration has been about 10,947 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 Alabama were 461 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 693 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 3,889 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 Alabama between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 89,737 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 Alabama was 1,776 (591 pre-1982 residents and 1,185 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 Alabama 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


Alabama has received 1,370 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 145 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

Alabama Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $159.20 53.5%
LEP educ. $27.70 9.3%
Medicaid+ $26.30 8.8%
SCHIP $6.10 2.0%
Justice $18.70 6.3%
Welfare+ $21.40 7.2%
General $38.30 12.9%
Total $297.60  
Tax receipts $18.20  
Net Cost $279.40  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Alabama as of 2010 was about 125,000 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 Alabama 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 120,000 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 Alabama 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 Alabama, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 (20,674) was 284.8 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 101.1 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Alabama's population in 2050 likely would be between 5,552,000 million and 5,601,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (5,308,000) 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 Alabama as 7,092 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Impact on Environment and Quality of Life

Traffic — Vehicle traffic in Alabama increased by 48 percent between 1990 and 2008, causing increased strain on the state's roadways. Over half (52%) of urban highways in the state carry an amount of traffic "that is likely to result in significant delays during peak travel hours."1 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average time for Alabama commuters increased 48.5 percent during the 1990s, from 17.6 minutes to 26.1 minutes in 2000.2 Birmingham commuters were delayed by about 32 hours each due to congestion in 2007, causing 21 gallons of wasted fuel per commuter.3 Nearly one in seven (13%) of Alabama commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.4

Nearly one-sixth (16%) of Alabama's government-maintained roads were in poor or mediocre condition in 2007. Vehicle repairs and operating costs related to poorly-maintained roads cost the typical motorist $162 per year, adding up to a statewide total of $590 million. Road conditions are worst in Alabama's major urban areas. Birmingham drivers foot a $344 annual bill for operating costs due to disrepair. The cost to Mobile drivers is $272 per year, and in Montgomery, $366 per year.5

Though Alabama's road situation is not as severe as some states, it is entering a troubled period in its ability to fund road maintenance. As of fiscal year 2008, expenses for the $38 billion federal highway aid program in Alabama will outpace revenue from gas taxes and other sources, according to forecasts by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Within three years, the program's reserves will be exhausted, meaning that the fund will no longer have enough money to meet all the demands on the books. 6

Disappearing Open Space — The amount of developed land in Alabama increased by 1,318,800 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 67,930 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.7

While Alabama pine plantation land has grown in recent years — primarily for commercial uses — the state lost 500,000 acres of natural forests during the 1990s. As these natural forests are converted to urban use, habitats are disrupted and species are becoming endangered.8 Alabama is expected to lose almost three million acres of forestland to urban growth by 2040, with particularly heavy losses expected around Birmingham.9

Crowded Housing — An estimated 33,124 of Alabama's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.8 percent of the state's housing units. 7,940 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.10 Following the national trend, crowded housing rates were driven upward by immigration. More than one-fifth (21%) of Alabama's children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 8 percent of children with native-born parents.11

Affordable Housing — As population increases, the affordable housing supply often drops. In 2008, Alabama minimum wage earners needed to work a 78-hour week in order to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment. In 2002, that figure was 72 hours. Alabama's housing wage (the amount a full-time worker must earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent) is $11.44, but the national minimum wage is $7.25.12

Air pollution — As population increases, pollution usually rises along with it. In Birmingham, the problem is so bad that the city expects to be unable to meet new federal air quality regulations and may face stiff penalties. Jefferson and Shelby counties also are not expected to meet the new standard.13

Poverty — Alabama's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 20.8 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 16.7 percent of native households. An additional 14.3 percent of the foreign-born and 10.3 percent of native households had incomes between 100 and 149 percent of the poverty level.14 28.5 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 22.9 percent of native children.15

End Notes:

  1. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Future Mobility in Alabama," March 2010.
  2. "Travel time to work for workers 16 and over", Census 2000 Summary file 3 (P31) and Census 1990 Summary file 3 (P050).
  3. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  4. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  5. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Future Mobility in Alabama," March 2010.
  6. "Report Card for America's Infrastructure," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  7. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  8. "State's Forestland Grows by Million Acres," Associated Press, February 23, 2002.
  9. Allen G. Breed, "Sprawl Number 1 Threat to N.C. forests, Study Finds," Associated Press, May 26, 2002.
  10. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  11. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  12. National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2008. Estimate for 2002 from "Rental Housing for America's Poor Families: Farther Out of Reach than Ever," National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2002.
  13. "Birmingham Likely to Miss New Smog-Reduction Deadline," Associated Press, November 15, 2002.
  14. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  15. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.