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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Marco Rubio says U.S. admits 1 million immigrants a year, far more than any nation

During a Fox News interview last week, Sen. Marco Rubio 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."

Both parts of Rubio's claim seemed worthy of a fact-check.

First, we'll look at the numbers.

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 United States whose status was upgraded to "permanent."

Separately, the United States 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.

On Rubio's other claim — that "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 United States in permanent immigrant inflows was Germany. That year, the United States had 1,130,800 permanent immigrants, compared with 606,314 for Germany. So the United States had numbers about twice as big. The third-place finisher, Spain, had 469,300.

So Rubio's correct on this point, too.

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 United States does once you factor in the size of each nation's population.

Using the measurement of permanent, annual immigrant inflows per overall population, the United States 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 United States 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 United States 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."

Our ruling

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.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News for the 2012 election. See video fact-checks at

The statement

"A million people a year come into the U.S. legally. No other country even comes close to that figure."

Sen. Marco Rubio, June 18, in an interview on Fox News

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: True
Rubio is right that about 1 million people a year are granted permanent resident status, nearly double of the next closely country — Germany. We rate his statement True.

PolitiFact Florida: Marco Rubio says U.S. admits 1 million immigrants a year, far more than any nation 06/24/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 24, 2012 10:38pm]
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