(Note: This post was updated on December 2, 2016 at 07:39ET by adding a not about the ranking of Federal aid to states.) This project is about correlating the immigration populations in the United States as they relate to different economic and security metrics. Today I am sharing with you the final base map from which I will be adding important metrics for later discussion. In today’s map, I added data points showing where the Mexican immigrants live in the country. The lowest number is the highest concentration of Mexican immigrants in relation to the state’s population. I also added the top ten states, in order, that refuse the federal government’s request to detain immigrants for possible deportation when they are arrested. The lowest number signifies the most refusals. The notion is that the more a state resists the federal government’s detainer request, the friendlier it is to the immigrant population, especially the undocumented one. I am also offering a few comments about “sanctuary cities.” As you likely know already, my project is about clearing up misconceptions about immigrants and immigration and therefore expect me to clear them up in future posts.

Clearing Up Misconceptions: Why Mexican Immigration is Declining

There are many misconceptions about immigrants and immigration. This is because a national narrative has been allowed to be developed without challenging the assumptions that many hold about immigrants. For example, much has been expressed lately about why Mexican immigrants have been on the decline. The assumption is that it is a result of tightening borders and a stronger Mexican economy. However, there is a fundamental metric that has been overlooked; agriculture as a state’s primary economic activity has been on the decline. As of 2015, not one US state boasts agriculture as its primary industry. Mexican immigrants, especially undocumented ones, tend to gravitate to the labor intensive agricultural sector. As it has declined in the US, it stands to reason that undocumented Mexican immigrants are having a more difficult time getting agricultural jobs.

That is not to say, that agriculture is the only driving force, but it has been a primary driver for many years. As the industries realign so does the magnet for immigrants realign as well.

Clearing Up Misconceptions: Sanctuary Cities

The issue of sanctuary cities has been a news topic for many months but their practicality for immigrants, positive or negative has yet to be quantified. The assumption is that sanctuary cities are located where the immigrants, especially the undocumented ones reside. California, Florida and New York support this notion when you look at fact-based evidence. However, Delaware, Colorado and Washington may be considered immigrant friendly by looking at Homeland Security reports and yet they are not often considered immigrant states.

A good way to determine if a state tends to be friendly to undocumented immigrants is to look at how they respond to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers for immigrants detained or in jail. Per an ICE “declined” report between January 2014 and September 2015, several states declined to honor the federal detainer placed on jailed immigrants. California was obviously number one on the list. Texas, though, was not one the top ten states refusing ICE detainers and neither was New Mexico.

The City of El Paso likes to portray itself as a friendly immigrant city and yet it has never allowed itself to be labelled a sanctuary city. Many would assume that because it is on the border with Mexico and the city’s economy is highly dependent on Mexicans, that El Paso would strive to encourage immigrants in its midst. Others would argue that Texas is a Republican stronghold and as such it would make sense to hold strong against undocumented immigrants in the state. Austin, Dallas and Houston disprove this theory as they are publicly labeled as sanctuary cities. But, the ICE documents clearly point to a different reality. During the ICE report window, El Paso only declined to honor one ICE detainer on a prisoner under its control. As a matter of fact, the ICE reports indicates that counties, or cities, on the US-Mexico border are less likely to decline an ICE detainer and thus would be less friendly to undocumented immigrants.

Yet, the notion at the national level persists that it is the border communities that encourage immigration lawless. The evidence demonstrates that this is not true. As I continue to develop my dataset maps, I believe many of you will be surprised as to what they reveal.

Where The Mexicans Live

Although immigrants in the United States hail from every country, without a doubt the largest immigration population, both legal and undocumented hails from Mexico. Thus, almost very discussion about immigration reform includes Mexico as part of the debate. As expected, California has the highest concentration of Mexican immigrants living in the state. California is followed by Texas (2), Nevada (3), Arizona (4) and New Mexico (5) to round out the top five states with Mexican immigrants living in them. The states with the least Mexicans is Vermont (51), followed by Maine (50), which is followed by West Virginia (49). Massachusetts (48) and New Hampshire (47) rounds out the top five states with the least Mexican immigrant population living in them.

Quality of Life Metrics

As I wrote in my pervious posts, my intent with this project is to correct the myths about immigration that creeped into the national debate about immigration reform. Also, as I wrote, although there are many issues postured forth, most of them, if not all of them come down to jobs, security and to some extent cultural pressures.

To create the framework for further discussion about the various immigration issues I want to have a fundamental dataset that we can use for the discussions. The following metrics, which I will be presenting in upcoming posts, will be added to the base map that I present to you today.

These are my initial metrics that I will be adding to this map next week.


For the topic about jobs, I want have a base of the productivity of each state so that we can correlate it with the immigration populations. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for each state is the measure of each state’s productivity. However, productivity can be created by keeping wages low or by having a larger population. As such, it is likely more important for the voters to know if the state’s productivity results in higher wages for them.

For that reason, on Monday, I am going to present to you two maps, the first will show you the GDP for each state. The second map will show you the GDP on a per capita basis, in other words, what is state’s salary levels in relation to its productivity.
But, there are two other important metrics that we need to correlate with the immigration population. It is not enough to have high salaries if there are no jobs to be had. Therefore, on Tuesday I will present a new map with the unemployment rate for each state. Additionally, just like having jobs is not enough, it is also important to see if the salaries are sufficient for the population. In addition to the unemployment metrics, on Tuesday I will also share a map of the poverty rates for each of the states.

There are those that argue that immigrants contribute to higher taxes or reduced benefits for the citizens. Comparing tax rates between states is impossible because taxes are driven by public policy agendas as well as other factors unrelated to immigrants in the populations. But, we still need to see if a correlation exists. Because of that, on Wednesday, I will add three more maps to the map set that I have been creating.

I will add another map showing the cost to educate the students in each state. Although there are different policies driving education in each state, nonetheless, the federal government, as well as the state and local governments contribute to the cost to educate each pupil in each state. These costs are borne directly by the taxpayers and thus they should be analyzed as well.

In addition, because of Obama Care, or the Affordable Health Care Act, we can compare the insurance coverage among each state’s population. As it is mandatory, under the law it will give us a starting point for the dataset.

As taxes are often mentioned as a detriment caused by the immigrant population, I am also adding a map showing a ranking of each based on the amount of federal aid they received. (This sentence was added on December 2, 2016 at 07:39ET)

Finally, I will add a ranking of the cost of living for each of the states. Basically, this metric should give us a snapshot as to how each state ranks against the other to make a home in.


Security is the most often discussed issue when it comes to immigration. On Thursday, I will post a map showing the violent crime rates for each state, ranked from the most violent to the least violent.


As I discussed earlier, the issue of culture in the immigration debate is highly subjective. There are many who argue that speaking Spanish is not part of the debate, or that the changing heritage makeup of the country is not an issue as well. However, I have heard the cultural debate clearly within the context of the immigration debate. As such, although it is not quantifiable, I believe it is important to include it in my dataset. On Friday, I will add two additional maps. The first will show the percentage of Hispanics in each of the states. The second map will show the percentage of Spanish speakers in each state.

Although the dataset I have been developing will not be conclusive, I believe it is an excellent starting point from which to have an open and honest discussion about immigration. I plan on adding to the dataset as new issues are brought up at the national level. Additionally, and more important to me is that I will have a good dataset from which to dispel the many myths being thrown about during national discussions about immigration reform.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...