The Wall Street Journal Misleadingly Reports Immigration Statistic

census_mailerThe WSJ on January 23 provided this news story: “Fewer Immigrants Came to U.S. Last Year.”  To document that conclusion it provided newly released Census Bureau (CB) data that put the net increase in the U.S. population resulting from “net international migration” from mid-2012 to mid-2013 at “Just over 843,000.” That estimate was lower than the similar estimate of “…866,000 who came the prior year.” The WSJ’s assertion is not substantiated because the CB number does not include data on the arrivals (immigrants) or departures (emigrants). The reduction in net immigration may simply reflect an increase in U.S. residents departing to live abroad.

The CB data also are very different from the data of the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS 2012 data show that every year since 2005 the number of new immigrants has been more than one million.

The question then becomes, which number is more important? Both numbers show that immigration is a major component of U.S. population growth. The CB number puts the net international migration share of population increase at 37.4 percent of the overall increase of about 2.56 million persons – the rest made up of more births than deaths. The DHS number reflects the number of foreigners who gain permanent residence and become eligible to move around the country and take most U.S. jobs without restriction.

If the focus is on the competition for limited national resources – such as fresh water supplies in California – the CB estimate is the one to focus on. The new CB number for California is a net increase from immigration of 123,217 residents in the past year. If the focus is on the competition for jobs, the DHS numbers are more important. In California, for example, where the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in November, the annual average number of immigrants admitted for residence there on average since 2005 has been nearly 226,000 persons.

But in addition to the newly admitted immigrants, the number of temporary nonimmigrant workers being admitted is also a key statistic, and one ignored in the WSJ article. DHS nonimmigrant admission data just for California for 2012 put the number of new temporary workers (H,L, and O visas) – excluding accompanying family members – at 187,549. Some of those workers may enter the country more than once during the year.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Well no differently from your reports…Jack..really….I mean if all 330 millions of us would vote then the results would be different…..when u disclose statistics… is just a derivative or should we say a subset of the actual truth or reality…..then the media puts steroids to it and those who do no use their gray matter believe it…..

    • avatar

      What does voting have to do with statistics? A majority of people could vote that one and one is three, and it wouldn’t make it true. Prove the numbers wrong.