Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 5,187,582
Population (2000 CB est.) 4,301,261
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 506,358
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 369,903
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 9.8 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 7.4%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 201,312
Share Naturalized (2012) 39.8 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 119,991
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 19,102
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 195,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $1,450,506,702
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 8,922,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Colorado in 2012 was 5,187,582 residents.

Between 2000 (population 4,301,261) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 72,353 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.5 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 3,294,394) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 100,687 residents. The annual average rate of change was 2.7 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 Colorado was about 506,358 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 9.8 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 11,140 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 72,353  people. That is a 15.3  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 36.9 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 19.6 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 13,120 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 24,260 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 33.5 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 46.8 percent of Colorado's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 54.4 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Colorado'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 15.1 percent to 17.0 percent. In 2000, 44.3 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 36.5 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 70.1 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 73.7 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 201,312 residents of Colorado, or 39.8 percent of the foreign-born population in Colorado, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 116,875 residents, or 31.6 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 Colorado's population resulting from net international migration has been about 23,790 people. It was 16.0 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 Colorado were 658 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 1,714 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 12,989 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 Colorado between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 323,882 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 Colorado was 22,513 (10,387 pre-1982 residents and 12,126 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 Colorado 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


Colorado has received 19,102 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1,458 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

Colorado Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $805.30 55.5%
LEP educ. $161.90 11.2%
Medicaid+ $198.60 13.7%
SCHIP $53.00 3.7%
Justice $146.90 10.1%
Welfare+ $30.40 2.1%
General $54.40 3.8%
Total $1,450.50  
Tax receipts $61.80  
Net Cost $1,388.70  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Colorado as of 2010 was about 195,000 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 Colorado 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 180,000 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 Colorado 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 Colorado, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 106,566) was 177.5 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 117.5 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Colorado's population in 2050 likely would be between 8,664,000 million and 8,922,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (7,390,000) 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 Colorado as 8,983 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


HB 1258 (April 26, 2013)

  • Repeals law mandating duty to cooperate with ICE (repeals SB 90 (2006))

City or County


Resolution No. 2004-40 (July 6, 2004)

  • “…municipal resources of the City shall not be utilized to identify, apprehend or deport any non-citizen resident on the sole basis of immigration status.”

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Disappearing Open Space: Many families who moved to the area for its open space despise the current pace of development spurred by population growth, feeling that what they moved to get away from is following them.1 The amount of developed land in Colorado increased by 746,900 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 35,670 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.2 Colorado has the second largest growth in housing development in the nation in 2002.3

Southeast Aurora, now a dusty prairie, is rapidly developing and will grow by 80,000 people by 2025, pushing Aurora's population past Boulder's, currently the second most populous city in Colorado.4

Traffic: Vehicle traffic on Colorado highways increased by 76 percent between 1990 and 2008, more than double the national average of 36 percent. Unfortunately, the road system in Colorado has been unable to mitigate the consequences of increased traffic. Nearly one-third (31%) of the state's major highways are congested.5 According to the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, over 40 percent of roads are rated as having poor pavement condition.6 Road conditions cost Colorado drivers over $1 billion each year in additional repair and operating costs, or about $287 for each motorist.7

Commuters in the Denver-Aurora urban area lost 45 hours and 30 gallons of fuel due to congestion in 2007, ranking it among the most congested cities in the nation. In Colorado Springs, the typical commuter wasted 23 hours and 14 gallons of fuel. Boulder residents have also felt the effects of congestion, sitting in traffic for an extra 12 hours. Between the three areas, congestion cost Colorado commuters $1.4 billion in lost time and wasted fuel in 2007.8 About 14 percent of Colorado commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.9

As the area's population increases by another one million people in the next 20 years, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) predicts that the number of vehicle miles traveled each weekday in metro Denver will climb by 29 million miles.10 As a result, the area will have to provide at least 2,300 additional lane-miles to prevent further congestion. Yet DRCOG's long-range transportation plan plans for an increase of less than half that.11

Education: Public school enrollment in Colorado increased by about 119,000 students (17 percent) between 1998 and 2008. Over the same period, the number of students per teacher decreased from 18.4 to 16.8, slightly outpacing the nationwide decrease of 1.4 students per teacher but still leaving Colorado 41st in the nation in this category.12 By 2025, enrollment is expected to pass one million students.13

School overcrowding is becoming a costly issue for Colorado. The expected additional 10,000 public school students per year will mean building at least 20 new schools annually. A planning Committee reported that Douglas County, which has seen a 43 percent increase of students since 1996, will need ten new schools in the next five years to keep up with its booming population. Construction and renovation to ease such school overcrowding could cost upwards of $175 million.14

Crowded Housing: An estimated 41,412 of Colorado's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 2.2 percent of the state's housing units. 10,300 of those were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.15 Following the national trend, crowded housing rates were driven upward by immigration. 24 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 7 percent of children with native-born parents.16

Sprawl: Metro Denver has the fourth worst case of urban sprawl in the nation, according to the Fannie Mae Foundation.17 Residents are trying to fight back by organizing neighborhood groups to pool private funds and buy up land to protect it from development.18

However, such solutions are limited because even well-intentioned "smart growth" can't accommodate continual population expansion. With metro Denver's population set to add more than an additional one million people by 2020, many in the area worry that Denver is on its way to becoming the next Los Angeles.19

Sprawl will have a devastating effect on Colorado's natural resources if it remains unchecked, according to studies conducted by Colorado State University. "Colorado's rapidly growing population and the trend toward more development and sprawl will inevitably lead to more conflicts over natural resources," points out CSU biologist Rick Knight.20

Water: If current growth trends continue, by 2050 the state's population will have reached 8.9 million residents, nearly double the population of 4.8 million in 2006.21 Colorado currently has a per-capita demand of 209 gallons of water each day. This means that in 2050, daily, public demand may exceed the 2006 level by up to 833 million gallons per day.

If current growth trends continue, by 2050 the state's population will have reached 8.9 million residents, nearly double the population of 4.8 million in 2006.24 Colorado currently has a per-capita demand of 209 gallons of water each day. This means that in 2050, daily, public demand may exceed the 2006 level by up to 833 million gallons per day.

Limited sources of groundwater and a dwindling Colorado River simply cannot continue to yield adequate water if this growth continues. According to the water manager of Aurora, Peter Binney, "It is wrong to assume that cities could continue to grow without experiencing something akin to a religious awakening about the scarcity of water."22

Adding to the state's demand-induced water woes, global climate change further aggravates the water conditions. The Colorado River largely depends on runoff from the Sierra Nevada snow pack. Climate change has caused less snow pack to be annually produced, as well as premature melting. This further jeopardizes future supplies by facilitating more evaporation, reducing the river's flows.23

Indeed, in its current condition, the Colorado River no longer flows all the way to the sea for large portions of the year.24 Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell, two large reservoirs which divert water from the Colorado River, have seen declining water levels. A study from the Scripp's Institution of Oceanography states that there is a 50% chance that these two reservoirs will be nothing but mud puddles in as little as 13 years.25 Already, statistical models indicate that Lake Mead will never reach full capacity again.26

Marine research physicist Tim Barnett and climate scientist David Pierce have concluded that collectively, human demand, in addition to natural forces such as evaporation and climate change, are creating a net deficit of nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River.27

Hope for Colorado water resources, and the Colorado River Basin, which is essential to much of the Southwest, can only transpire if the demand for water is reduced to the rate at which it is naturally replenished.

Additionally, the Ogallala Aquifer is critical to farming in the center of the nation, including eastern Colorado. However, it is replenished slowly because of the relatively dry area. At least 12 billion cubic meters are being drawn from it every year. It's drying up. At the current rate, the aquifer may be dry in less than 25 years.28 Limited water resources are being exacerbated by growing human consumption When the aquifer finally runs dry, the High Plains Region will be little more than desert.

Solid Waste: Colorado generates 1.12 tons of solid waste per capita.29

Air Quality: Six of the eleven Colorado counties scored in the American Lung Association's 2010 assessment received an "F" for frequency of high ozone days. Denver's grade was "C."30

Poverty: Colorado's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 21.8 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 10.9 percent of native households. An additional 13.7 percent of the foreign-born and 7.5 percent of native households had incomes between 100 and 149 percent of the poverty level.31 28.5 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 13.0 percent of native children.32


  1. Susan Greene, "Colorado's New Face Front Range Catapults '90s Population Explosion," Denver Post, March 20, 2001.
  2. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  3. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  4. Burt Hubbard, "State Growing Despite Woes," Rocky Mountain News, December 21, 2002.
  5. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Colorado's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  6. Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, "Resource Guide to the Colorado Infrastructure Report Card," 2008.
  7. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Colorado's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  8. Texas Transportation Institute, "Urban Mobility Report 2009."
  9. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  10. Todd Hartman, "Growth, Cars Cast Shadow Over Future Air Quality," Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2002.
  11. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  12. NEA, "Rankings and Estimates," 1999 and 2009 editions.
  13. Debra Gerald and William Hussar, "Projections of Education Statistics to 2010," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
  14. Hector Gutierrez, "Douglas Group Urges 10 New Schools," Rocky Mountain News, June 8, 2000.
  15. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  16. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  17. Randy Capps, "Hardship Among Children of Immigrants: Findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  18. Steve Raabe and Anne Colden, "Denver's Dubious Rank: No. 4 in Urban Sprawl," Denver Post, November 2, 2000.
  19. Trent Siebert, "Town Stands Against Sprawl," Denver Post, November 29, 2002.
  20. Sean Kelly, "CoPIRG Rips Projects as 'Dumb Growth," Denver Post, July 21, 2000.
  21. Jack Martin and Stanley Fogel, "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050," FAIR, March 2006.
  22. Daniel J. Weiss, Zoe Brown, "Learning the Worth of Water." Center for American Progress. November 13, 2007.
  23. Mark Jaffe. "Climate Change Hits the West," Denver Post. May 28, 2008.
  24. Sandra Postel and Brian Richter, Rivers of Life: Managing Water for People and Nature.,2003.
  25. Patty Henetz, "Utah's water forecast: Thirsty times are a-brewin'." Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 2008.
  26. Researchers: Colorado River System is Unsustainable," Water and Wastewater News, February 18, 2008.
  27. Heidi Stevenson. "How Corporations Drain Our Aquifers for Profit (Part 2)." Natural News. June 11, 2008.
  28. Jerd Smith, "Need for Water Going Nowhere But Up," Rocky Mountain News, September 10, 2002.
  29. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  30. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  31. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  32. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.