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More Than One Million Undocumented People Live In Houston and Dallas Combined

A new Pew report helps put the war on sanctuary cities in perspective.

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Luis Navarro and other protesters assemble as they wait for the Mega March on City Hall to begin April 9, 2006 in Dallas, Texas. According to reports, an estimated half million Hispanics participated in the Mega March to peacefully protest immigration reform.
Jensen Walker/Getty

A new Pew study shows that the majority of the United States’s 11.1 million undocumented people are spread across just twenty metro areas, with Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth cracking the top five areas with the largest undocumented populations. Nearly 1.1 million undocumented people live in Houston and the DFW—about 575,000 in Houston and 475,000 in DFW. That lands the two Texas cities at number three and number four, respectively, on Pew’s list, behind only New York City and Los Angeles. Austin rounds out the bottom of the list with 100,000 undocumented people.

The report, which you can read here, shouldn’t come as a surprise to Texans. But it does help put into perspective the potential impact certain policies—particularly Governor Greg Abbott’s war on sanctuary cities and President Donald Trump’s executive actions against immigration—could have on some of Texas’s biggest population centers.

U.S. metro areas with the most unauthorized immigrants

Abbott has threatened to punish Texas cities and universities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, but he had failed to pass legislation that would actually ban sanctuary cities. That may change soon, however. Abbott lashed out at Travis County last month, cutting off more than $1.5 million worth of state grant funds because Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez implemented a policy that limits the cooperation of county jails with federal immigration agencies. And there is currently a bill proposal, SB 4, set to go before the House that would make it possible for state lawmakers to withhold funding from local governments and jurisdictions that have perceived sanctuary policies.

At the federal level, Trump has promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants, saying throughout his campaign that he would deport as many as three million people. Shortly after he was inaugurated, Trump signed an executive order that broadened the reach of federal immigration agents to conduct more deportations and threatened to defund sanctuary cities. The impact of this executive order has already been felt among undocumented communities in southern California, Arizona, and even Austin, where ICE has reportedly conducted raids this week that have swept up people who had been living and working here for years—the kind of undocumented people who had generally not been primary targets of federal immigration agencies under Barack Obama’s administration.

20 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest number of unauthorized immigrants

Despite the threats to sanctuary cities at both a state and national level, Houston has recently doubled down on its commitment to providing safe harbor for its undocumented populations. Earlier this week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the Houston Chronicle that the city would remain friendly to everyone, even in the wake of anti-immigrant policies that may come from the state or the feds. “I have always said that we are a welcoming city; that we embrace every one,” Turner said. “The Houston Police Department is not going to be ICE or INS. In my administration, it’s not going to happen.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, on the other hand, told Dallas radio station WBAP on Friday that he does not consider Dallas a sanctuary city, and that he’d continue to follow federal immigration laws. “What a sanctuary city says is that we do not obey the federal law when we are asked to do so, and that is not the case in Dallas,” Rawlings said. “We need to be a welcoming community. But you can do that and still respect the law and make sure you implement all laws.” His comments came on the heels of a resolution passed by the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday calling for local law enforcement officials to “end nonessential collaborations” with ICE. According to the Dallas Morning News, the resolution is not legally binding, and Rawlings said in a statement that while the sentiment of the resolution was positive, the city will continue to cooperate with the feds as usual.

It remains to be seen if SB4 will pass the House, and any anti-sanctuary action Trump’s administration actually takes would almost certainly face a fierce legal battle. There are still questions about how these potential punitive measures would be enforced. But if they do come to pass, the new Pew report proves that a two-pronged state and federal attack on immigrant sanctuaries could have a major impact on two of Texas’s biggest cities.

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  • Charlie Primero

    Wow. That’s a lot of illegals.

    I knew the savings to the public treasury would be great after we deport the illegals, but I did not know it would be that great.

    The improvements in over-crowded schools, traffic congestion, and crime will also be greater than I previously thought.

  • enp1955

    The song lyric that keeps running through my head is, “whose going to fix your Mexican food when all the Mexican’s are gone, who’s going to build your wall.” Or something like that.

    • WISEONE

      Problem with that mindset is that there is already a huge, LEGAL population of Mexicans in the U.S. If all the illegals were sent back, their wages might increase and there would be more jobs to fill.

      • enp1955

        Yes, there is a huge legal population, and I support them. And I don’t like illegals joining them. But I’m also well aware of the law of unintended consequences. Unemployment in my area is right around 4% and there are signs up in every restaurant and service business looking for people. The construction industry can’t find people. Landscapers are short staffed. So as people are deported, the labor shortage in those sectors will increase, wages will very likely go up, and the prices of those services will go up accordingly. I just hope that American consumers are ready to give up their “dollar menus”. Mass deportation is likely to cause almost overnight inflation.

  • I live in Dallas County. More than a few of those Illegals live on my block. They like to pack three or four families into a single family house and their pick-up trucks line the street because they don’t have room to park them all.
    I can’t wait for ICE to get here!

  • Mike Herod

    Overlay the sanctuary cities map above with a map of those areas where hillary did much better than in the rest of the United States where Trump dominated and humiliated her!!

    Suddenly it becomes quite clear why hilary won these ares by 3 million votes.

    • José

      Yup. Folks who get to know people of different races and ethnicities and lifestyles tend to be a lot more understanding and open-minded. And that’s exactly where Tiny Hands lost bigly. Excellent point!

      • WISEONE

        Breaking the law and expecting people to think you’re a “victim” is lunacy.
        As long as we have one veteran who can’t find a job, home or get timely medical treatment, as long as we have one citizen in poverty, we need to completely end immigration of every kind.
        We need a ten year moratorium to catch our breath and allow those already here to assimilate and prove they deserve the privilege of living here.

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        • granniangel

          I agree. Well said. Take care of our own First.

  • St. Anger

    seriously? what are the total populations of those cities?

    i simply don’t believe that 20% or more of houston residents are undocumented.

    • José

      Follow the links to the full listing. They have both Houston metro and D/FW at 37%. Gainesville, GA is tops in percentage at 58%.

      • St. Anger

        ut that’s absurd on its face.

        1/3 of the people in houston are undocumented immigrants?

        come on. no way. what is their agenda?

        • José

          Agreed, it seems awfully high.

        • Do you get out much? I go on job sites that are probably 75-80% illegals. I believe a third of the city are illegals.

          • Unwound

            How do you know they’re illegal

          • St. Anger

            look at the avatar.

            he is assuming they aren’t legal because they don’t dress like jefferson davis.

          • smell

          • St. Anger

            i’m starting to think we could solve about 16 different problems if we just give the southwest back to mexico, texas first.

            for that matter, i’d let the french have the south for a couple crepes.

          • St. Anger

            based on that math, you would have to assume that almost half of all jobs are construction sites, or that half of all jobs hire the same demographics as construction sites.

            but based on your avatar, i must assume you can’t do math.

            so go shove, racist.

          • Nazgul_hunter

            Obviously you’ve never been to a construction site.

          • St. Anger
    • William Andrew McWhorter

      Here’s the Pew Center data: http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2017/02/09110457/UnauthorizedImmigrants_AllUSMetros_2014.pdf

      Working backward from their 8.7% figure, it looks like they’re using a population of 6.6 million for the Houston area.

      • St. Anger

        but that’s almost 3x the real number.

        something here is fishy.

        • William Andrew McWhorter

          Read the footnotes: “Metro areas defined using the 2013 definitions for metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.”

          They aren’t only talking about the City of Houston. It’s going to include Pasadena, Baytown, Stafford, a bunch of unincorporated rural areas etc. etc. etc.

        • TargetThe Narcissist

          the “real number” is the fishy one. its called propaganda. there are hoards of illegals here, subversives taking over.

    • TargetThe Narcissist

      pull your head out from where the sun dont shine…..

  • José

    I can’t believe that San Antonio ranked so low. It’s #24 on the list, right behind #23 Hidalgo County.

  • Clark Gordon

    The Republic of Mexico would be a better place to live if all their citizens would go home, take to the streets, and demand an end to corruption and impunity. They need to reform their legal system so that the rule of law can be established. I think many of the undocumented here are Mexican patriots at heart. They can make Mexico great again. Viva AMLO!

    • José

      You know, we need exactly that kind of action right here in the good old US of A. Thank goodness a lot of concerned, patriotic citizens are doing exactly that. Marching in the streets, demanding that the new administration halt its arrogant lawlessness. We were a great nation before last month, and God willing we can turn things around and stop this dangerous descent into authoritarianism. Good idea!

      • WISEONE

        You’ve GOT to be kidding. The reason we have President Trump, was the lunatic policies of Barack Obama.
        Obama’s racist war on the police, his pandering to rogue, terror sponsoring states like Iran, his hatred of white, working class Americans are what brought out the backlash that thankfully put Hillary off the political stage forever and ushered in President Trump.

      • TargetThe Narcissist

        your definition of a nation is communism. no we dont need communism. we are restoring the eroded republic before communists finish it off.

    • Lacey Sheridan

      Exactly! People need to correct the problems in their own countries rather than abandoning them. We can’t take in the world.

    • Charles Meredith

      Mexico is a dictatorship type of country.
      The rich run the elections, and rape the wealth back into their families!
      I have known several of these ruling families, and they have no reason
      to change anything.
      It will take a bloody Revolution and a COUP to force a change for the people to ever rule again.
      My prediction: nothing will change until a foreign power invades it. CHINA comes to mind.

  • Whollyholeyholy

    I’d like to point out that whatever you think of how the undocumented people came to be here, if they suddenly disappear, we are going to have a very serious problem with our economy. I don’t live in Texas anymore, but Texas will be hit hard. Not that it isn’t all related in the end, when it comes to exchanging goods and services. They will leave housing supply empty. They won’t be buying things, eating things, paying for repairs, or doing work. This isn’t a”kick them out and the sun will shine on the rest of us forever” scenario. Good luck figuring it all out.

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    • Lacey Sheridan

      But surely some of that will be offset by savings in the public sector?

      • Whollyholeyholy

        Well, you should do some research and see how it looks to balance out; estimates are that undocumented immigrants contribute $12 billion to tax revenues. And estimates about a third of such immigrants nationally are homeowners, subjecting them to property tax payments. Another 50 percent are believed to pay income taxes. And as much as 75 percent of the population is believed to pay into the U.S. Social Security system (a system of benefits they wouldn’t be eligible to receive anyway unless they became U.S. citizens) so a net positive to social security.

        • Whollyholeyholy

          I’m not advocating for exploiting these people–just looking at figures. I had read some of this before and wanted to refresh my memory.

        • Lacey Sheridan

          It’s difficult to determine real costs for the obvious reason, and much of what I read has a political slant. For example, Texas is said to spend $12.1 on educating illegal immigrants; that offsets any tax revenues. I’m assuming a fair amount if that money goes to ESL/bilingual instruction, but it’s not clear to me how the data is collected. Are legal immigrants lumped in with illegals? That would clearly change the numbers. Another issue is the manual labor the illegals do for very low wages. Americans aren’t going to do those jobs, not unless they’re paid a great deal more money, which isn’t feasible. If businesses go under, that’s no boon to the economy.
          A complex issue, the ramifications of which we haven’t thoroughly explored.

          • Matt

            Texas pays for education through property taxes so undocumented immigrants are still paying into the system… also anyone that lives anywhere pays into the property tax system one way or another. If you live in an apartment part of your rent is going to pay for the owner’s property tax bill.

    • TargetThe Narcissist

      no you are wrong. wait and see we will be just fine without them.

      that is a false logic scare tactic. its been effective in the past, but its not true at all.

      • Whollyholeyholy

        What compelling evidence you have provided…

        • TargetThe Narcissist

          its on those making the claim to prove it. that means illegals must prove they built and run america, that their presence makes america great.

          if they go back home their country will be great like america is because its all about what they do.

          liberals have zero critical thinking skills. go home illegals.

          • Whollyholeyholy

            I cited evidence above. You have countered with insults and claims that I am wrong. I’m sorry if you are under the impression that your argument is convincing, but it is not. It’s not even hurtful. Just sad.

          • TargetThe Narcissist

            go home your mind games dont work anymore. go home illegals all of you and take your anchor babies with you. they are not citizens.

          • TargetThe Narcissist

            the mind games dont work anymore people see right through it. you are manipulative criminals. go home all of you. your anchor babies are not citizens.

          • TargetThe Narcissist

            honest mexicans are still in mexico. cowardly mexicans, con artists are here.

    • John Gannon

      I think we will survive.

  • No wonder Houston is such a shithole nowadays.

    • Dana McDonald

      HISD is on the verge of collapsing.. which, is truly unfair to American students.

    • Jed

      Upvoted by:

      ksteubin
      WISEONE
      txcharley
      Louis Rigsby
      John Gannon

      fascist racists all.

  • Chimpelle

    All of these wet-backs need to go back to their own country.

    • Jed

      upvoted by

      Louis Rigsby

      what an admirable man you must be.

  • Dana McDonald

    What a disaster. #MAGA

  • TargetThe Narcissist

    pack your bags subversive illegal aliens. you are not needed here. go home. anchor babies are not citizens, just like john mccain is not a citizen of panama. all your false logic doesn’t work anymore. go home all of you. go home.

    if what you claim is true, that america is great because you are here doing all this noble work, your mere presence in your own countries will fix them. go home and fix your own countries. we are fine here without you.

    leave now and take your belongings or leave later without them. your choice.

  • Bobby Baker

    Why do we quickly assume all illegal immigrants are from Mexico? Melania Trump is an illegal (textbook definition) as she violated US Immigration Laws back in the 1990’s. The First Lady of the US not only is guilty of plagiarizing and lying about earning a college degree, she also committed a felony when she broke US Immigration Laws.

    • John Gannon

      So did Obama’s aunt.