New Mexico


Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 2,085,538
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,819,046
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 216,228
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 149,606
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 10.4 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 7.4%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 66,010
Share Naturalized (2012) 30.5 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 35,326
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 3,815
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 100,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $608,044,447
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 2,809,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of New Mexico in 2012 was 2,085,538 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,819,046) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 21,754 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.1 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,515,069) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 30,398 residents. The annual average rate of change was 1.8 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 New Mexico was about 216,228 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 10.4 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 7,365 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 21,754  people. That is a 33.9  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 44.5 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 20.8 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 5,778 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 11,335 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 52.1 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 38.9 percent of New Mexico's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 44.5 percent. In 2000, 39.1 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in New Mexico'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 36.5 percent to 35.4 percent. In 2000, 32.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 24.9 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 78.5 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 84.0 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 66,010 residents of New Mexico, or 30.5 percent of the foreign-born population in New Mexico, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 52,103 residents, or 34.8 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 New Mexico's population resulting from net international migration has been about 7,000 people. It was 21.6 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 New Mexico were 259 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 1,025 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 3,681 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 New Mexico between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 143,246 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 New Mexico was 28,085 (16,287 pre-1982 residents and 11,798 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 New Mexico 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


New Mexico has received 3,815 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 189 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

New Mexico Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $437.5 61.0%
LEP educ. $54.1 7.0%
Medicaid+ $91.1 13.0%
SCHIP $0.0 0.0%
Justice $76.0 11.0%
Welfare+ $16.4 2.0%
General $42.2 6.0%
Total $717.3  
Tax receipts $33.5  
Net Cost $683.8  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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 85,000 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 New Mexico 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 New Mexico, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 64,024) was 83.5 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 103.1 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected New Mexico's population in 2050 likely would be between 2,730,000 million and 2,809,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (2,350,000) 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 New Mexico as 3,535 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies


Executive Order No. 2005-019 (April 7, 2005)

  • “State Law Enforcement officers shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status for the sole purpose of determining whether that person is present in the United States in violation of federal civil immigration law; and State Law Enforcement officers shall not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach the police seeking assistance.”

City or County


Resolution No. R-2001-009 (December 18, 2000)

  • “No municipal resources shall be used to identify individuals’ immigration status or apprehend persons on the sole basis of immigration status, unless otherwise required by law to do so.”

Resolution No. R-2004-070 (June 7, 2004)

  • “The City opposes the enactment of the CLEAR Act and HSEA and any other legislation encouraging or compelling local law enforcement to enforce federal civil immigration laws.”
  • “The City reaffirms its commitment to civil rights and equal access to all city services including police protection regardless of immigration status.”
  • “The City reaffirms that no municipal resources will be used to identify and apprehend persons solely based on their immigration status.”


News Article: Mesilla Board of Trustees directs marshal not to enforce immigration laws (September 10, 2013)

  • References a Mesilla Board of Trustees resolution that instructs the Mesilla Marshal’s Department not to enforce federal immigration laws

Rio Arriba County

Resolution No. 2003-085 (April 15, 2003)

  • “…the Board of Rio Arriba County Commissioners…direct all state and local law enforcement agencies operating in Rio Arriba County to refrain from participating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.…”
  • “…the Board of Rio Arriba County Commissioners…direct all state and local law enforcement agencies operating in Rio Arriba County to refrain from the practice of stopping drivers or pedestrians for the purpose of scrutinizing their identification documents without reasonable and particularized suspicion of criminal activity.…”

Santa Fe

Resolution No. 2012-2 (January 10, 2012)

  • “…on January 26,2010, the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County adopted Resolution No. 2010-20 reaffirming Santa Fe County’s commitment to civil rights and equal access to County services including public safety protection regardless of immigration status….”


Water: Kathleene Parker, an environmental activist in Albuquerque commented in 1996 during drought conditions in the state, "Experts warn that the American Southwest, with its booming cities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Denver, is on a course for ecological disaster if a 'real' drought hits. Computer simulations show that with our current high population, Lake Powell will likely never recover from the draw down of its waters in the current drought. Yet, flying in the face of that stark reality, this region is growing at doubling times in the ranges of less than 38 years, driven only somewhat by a high birth rate in a predominately Catholic state and much more by illegal immigration and huge influxes of people fleeing other regions, especially California, being made into population nightmares by the huge driver of California's growth, immigration. My own city, Rio Rancho, is predicted to gain 50,000 residents in just six years."1.

With all available surface water being consumed, and groundwater levels steadily declining, a foreboding water shortage looms on the horizon. With surface water flows from the Rio Grande completely appropriated for the last fifty years, New Mexico has repeatedly turned to the ground to sustain its increasing demand for water.2 New Mexico now draws over eighty-five percent of its water from its diminishing groundwater resources.3 Unfortunately, this pumping is unsustainable because it is not being replenished as fast as it is being pumped out.

Additionally, human induced climate change continues to worsen the situation, as experts partially fault this climate change for the reduced flows in the Colorado River, which relies on an ever decreasing snow pack for replenishment.4 In addition to the Rio Grande, the Colorado River is one New Mexico's chief surface water sources. Yet, the Colorado River has seen declining runoffs since 2000.5 The Rio Grande is also expected to see declining flows as snow pack levels decrease. Warmer temperatures will also mean earlier snow pack melting, and increased evaporation.6

The Ogallala is critical to farming in the center of the nation, including the eastern edge of New Mexico. 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.7 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.

In conservation efforts, New Mexico has begun to try to cope with the onset of their water shortage by employing desalination plants. Since about seventy percent of the state's groundwater is brackish, this formerly useless water can be accessed easily, and is in no short supply. However, the desalination process takes an enormous amount of energy, and also poses serious environmental risks due to leftover tons of concentrated salt. "The biggest issue is going to be the environmental impacts," said John Stomp, water manager for Albuquerque's Bernalillo County. "Even dumping the concentrated saltwater into the ocean can have an impact." On top of this, due to the laborious process required, water costs will double as a result of desalination.8

As population continues to grow in New Mexico, agriculture may be the first to be adversely affected. Water transfers from agricultural use to municipal use already occur, and their regularity is likely to increase. In addition to limiting crop production, these diversions will decrease the amount of agricultural water that returns through the ground to the middle Rio Grande aquifer. And this aquifer, after being consistently depleted over the last fifty years, "needs all the help it can get."9

Traffic: As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for New Mexico residents increased 16 percent during the 1990s, from 19 minutes in 1990 to 21.2 minutes in 2005.10 In the El Paso, TX- New Mexico area travelers experience an annual delay of 18 hours.11 11 percent of commuters in New Mexico have a commute that is 45 minutes or more. 12

The cost of combating congestion, which includes expanding existing roads in order to accommodate, are staggering. New Mexico's state legislature recently approved a 5.4 cents a gallon increase on its state tax on gasoline in order to finance $561 million in road projects, $423 million of which will be used for road expansion projects. "This [increase on state gasoline tax] hurts the poor person trying to drive to work every day," says to State House Representative Dan Foley.13

Disappearing open space: Each year, New Mexico loses 43,400 acres of open space and farmland due to development.14

Sprawl: Albuquerque is well on its way to becoming surrounded by sprawl according to a report by the Sierra Club. Despite The Petroglyph National Monument's past role as a natural limit to development to the west of Albuquerque, developers are planning to sprawl past the monument into an undeveloped region of the state. Known as Quail Ranch, the development will require an extension of the Paseo del Norte highway through the Monument in order to be accessed. On top of environmental concerns, residents question the city's ability to provide essential services to Quail Ranch while struggling to meet a $1 billion infrastructure maintenance backlog. Additionally, the Albuquerque Public Schools estimates that building schools in the new development will cost $142 million in taxpayer money.15

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 111.4 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, and 75.5 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase.16

Crowded housing: In 2005 over 23,023 New Mexico households were defined as crowded or severely crowded by housing authorities.17 Studies show that a rise in crowded housing often correlates with an increase in immigrant settlement.18,19

Labor: Job competition by waves of illegal immigrants willing to work at substandard wages and working conditions depresses the wages of American workers, hitting hardest at minority workers and those without high school degrees. In New Mexico, state unemployment rose to 5.8 percent at the beginning of 2003, with more than 53,000 New Mexicans unemployed.20

Poverty: In 2005 29.7 percent of immigrants in New Mexico had incomes below the poverty level, and increase of 18.3 percent since 2000. Among non-citizens, the poverty rate climbs to 35.7 percent.21

Education: Between 2000 and 2006 the K-12 enrollment increased by 2,000 student. 22,23

School overcrowding is becoming a costly issue for New Mexico. With many schools already handling more students than their allotted capacity, these school districts are forced to expand.24 In Albuquerque, more than 1,300 portable classrooms are in use, with some schools using up to 48 portable classrooms each.25 In addition, with many schools operating above the student cap for class size and poor quality of education, the costs for alleviating overcrowding and improving failing schools are staggering.6 As planned development projects continue to rise in many areas in New Mexico, school overcrowding will continue to be a problem for New Mexican schools.27

Air Quality: Bernalillo and Dona Ana counties both received a grade of "C" from the American Lung Association in their "State of the Air 2005" report.28

Solid Waste: New Mexico generates 1.13 tons of solid waste per capita.29

Illegal Immigration: In August of 2005 the Governor or New Mexico, Bill Richardson, declared a state of emergency in order to free up federal funds, citing the suffering caused by tide of drug smuggling and illegal immigration.


  1. Commentary by former journalist Kathleen Parker in Rio Rancho Observer.
  2. Laura Paskus, "The Big Suck," Santa Fe Reporter, April 4, 2007.
  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. John Fleck. "Climate Experts: Adapting is Key," Albuquerque Journal, May 30, 2008.
  5. Cary Blake, " Arizona faces potential water supply shortage from Colorado River by 2011," Western Farm Press, December 6, 2007.
  6. Heidi Stevenson. "How Corporations Drain Our Aquifers for Profit (Part 2)." Natural News. June 11, 2008
  7. Peter Rice, "New Mexico explores filtering brackish groundwater," Associated Press, June 26, 2007
  8. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990 and 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  9. Selected Economic Characteristics:2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  10. Ibid.
  11. "The 2005 Urban Mobility Report", Texas Transportation Institute.
  12. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  13. Barry Massey, "House Approves Five-Cent Gas Tax Increase Proposal," Associated Press, March 12, 2003.
  14. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-Federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  15. "Black Ranch (Albuquerque): Sprawl Jumps Over Natural Limits," Fall 2000 Sprawl Report, Sierra Club.
  16. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  17. Selected Housing Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  18. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 7, 2002.
  19. Randy Capps, "Hardship Among Children of Immigrants: Findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  20. "Unemployment Rate Up in New Mexico," Associated Press, March 14, 2003.
  21. "New Mexico State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  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. Elaine D. Briseno, "District Adds 576 Students," Albuquerque Journal, November 5, 2002.
  25. Rick A. Maese, "West Side School Grapples With Severe Crowding," Albuquerque Tribune, August 27, 2002.
  26. Jennifer W. Sanchez, "Poor Schools Gnaw at District 1," Albuquerque Tribune, January 29, 2003.
  27. Elaine D. Briseno, "New Elementary Schools Top Wish List," Albuquerque Journal, November 26, 2002.
  28. "State of the Air 2005: New Mexico", American Lung Association.
  29. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated February 2012