Why Idaho Has Largest Share Of Unauthorized Immigrants Impacted By Obama Action

Dec 3, 2014

These are farm laborers in Oregon, the sate with the second highest percentage of unauthorized immigrants who will benefit from Obama's new program. Many immigrants come to Idaho to work in the agriculture industry.
Credit Oregon Department of Agriculture

Idaho has the highest share of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

Idaho is not exactly a mecca for unauthorized immigrants. Its numbers are small compared to most states. There are about 50,000 undocumented immigrants in Idaho, making up about 3 percent of the state’s population according to Pew’s analysis. 

But 46 percent of Idaho’s undocumented residents have become eligible for deportation protection under the President’s executive action. That’s a higher rate than any other state.

D’Vera Cohn from the Pew Research Center says the main reason is that the vast majority, 83 percent, of Idaho’s undocumented immigrants are from Mexico.

“Mexicans tend to have families here including children born in the United States who of course, are citizens,” Cohn says. “Many Mexicans have also been in the U.S. for many years.”

To qualify for deportation protection under the new program, an undocumented person has to be the parent of someone born here and have been in the U.S. longer than five years. Undocumented Mexicans, Cohn says, qualify for deportation protections at a disproportionately high rate compared to immigrants from other countries.

Cohn says Pew also did an analysis that combines people who would be eligible under the newly announced program and one created two years ago known as DACA. That gives protection to people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Between the two programs, nearly two-thirds of unauthorized Idaho residents are eligible for deportation protection.   

“There again Idaho stands out,” Cohn says. “It tops the list of states in terms of the share eligible for the combined programs.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio