During a Fox News interview on June 18, 2012, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discussed immigration and said that "a million people a year come into the U.S. legally. No other country even comes close to that figure."
We’ll check these two claims in order.
"A million people a year come into the U.S. legally"
The numbers can get a little complicated, but all the experts we spoke to said Rubio was on solid ground.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the United States accepted 1,062,040 legal permanent residents in fiscal year 2011, a number that has been fairly steady over the past few years. Of this number, roughly 45 percent were new arrivals and about 55 percent were people already in the U.S. whose status was upgraded to "permanent."
Separately, the U.S. admitted more than 4.4 million people in 2010 on a long-term temporary basis, either for employment or study. This number does not include a much larger total (roughly 42 million people) admitted for shorter stays, including visitors for pleasure or short-term business.
So while one could say that 46 million people actually "come into the U.S. legally," we’ll give Rubio the benefit of the doubt that he was referring to the 1 million who were granted permanent resident status, not those admitted on a temporary basis.
"No other country even comes close to that figure"
We looked at immigration statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a research group for advanced industrialized nations.
Using 2009 statistics, the only nation that came close to the U.S. in permanent immigrant inflows was Germany. That year, the U.S. had 1,130,800 permanent immigrants, compared to 606,314 for Germany. So the U.S. had numbers about twice as big. The third-place finisher, Spain, had 469,300.
So Rubio’s correct on this point, too.
Some additional context
Without taking away from the accuracy of Rubio’s statements, we thought it would be worthwhile adding a bit of context.
There are actually many other countries that absorb immigrants at a higher rate than the U.S. does once you factor in the size of each nation’s population.
Using the measurement of permanent, annual immigrant inflows per overall population, the U.S. in 2009 ranked only 11th out of a selection of 28 advanced industrialized nations, trailing such countries as Australia, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.
And using United Nations data on the cumulative number of resident immigrants as a share of total population, the U.S. ranks only 25th in the world. Some of the nations with higher immigrant percentages are small, oil-rich Arab countries with large foreign-worker populations, but others with higher rankings include Israel, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Spain and Sweden.
On the other hand, the U.S. does diverge from most of the rest of the world on the rights granted immigrants once they are made permanent.
"Where the U.S. differs from most European countries is that the immigrants we admit are generally eligible for full membership in society through naturalization, and that the immigrants' U.S.-born children are automatically citizens with full rights," said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center. "Neither of these is generally the case in Europe."
Rubio is right that "a million people a year come into the U.S. legally" and that "no other country even comes close to that figure." We rate his statement True.
Marco Rubio, interview with Fox News, June 18, 2012
Department of Homeland Security, "U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2011," April 2012
Department of Homeland Security, "Nonimmigrant Admissions to the United States: 2010," August 2011
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "Table A.1.1. Inflows of foreign population into selected OECD countries and the Russian Federation," data through 2009
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, population table for member nations, through 2011
Migration Policy Institute tabulations of the United Nations' Population Division data, "Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Age and Sex," accessed June 19, 2012
Interview with Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, June 19, 2012
Email interview with Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center, June 19, 2012
Email interview with Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications for the Migration Policy Institute, June 19, 2012
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