The total number of immigrants living in the United States illegally hasn't changed much since 2009, but where they are choosing to settle, according to a new report from the nonprofit Pew Research Center.
The report released Tuesday shows Florida with among the biggest increases in residents without legal immigration status. Between 2009 and 2012, some 55,000 new immigrants in the country illegally came to Florida. That brings the state's total to an estimated 925,000. The increase highlights a broader shift from the West and Southwest. Only New Jersey saw a larger increase, with about 75,000 people.
Some East Coast states like New York and Alabama saw declines, but Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia also had sharp increases. California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico saw the biggest drops in new arrivals, although their overall populations remain among the largest. California has more than 2.5 million people without legal status. Texas remains in second place with 1.6 million. Florida comes in third.
Florida's agriculture, construction and hospitality industries tend to draw those in the country illegally. So, too, does Florida's thriving legal immigrant population, especially in South Florida where Spanish is frequently spoken and has traditionally been sympathetic to new arrivals regardless of their status.
A recent decision by the state legislature to allow thousands of teens to pay in-state college tuition, regardless of their immigration status, could make the state even more attractive.
According to an analysis by Pew, the increase in Florida comes primarily from Mexican immigrants. The state also draws Haitians and others from the Caribbean, as well as Latin America.