There are 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Two to three million are children. About 70 percent of the undocumented immigrant population has resided in the country for five years or more. Approximately 450,000 new undocumented immigrants enter the United States each year.
As lawmakers consider proposals to reform immigration policy in the United States, one of the central issues in the debate is how the United States should respond to the presence of the large undocumented population in our nation. Some argue that increased enforcement will force this population to leave the country. Others, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, believe that undocumented immigrants already living in the United States should be given the opportunity to obtain permanent legal status through an earned legalization program. It is important to remember that economic injustice still plagues most of the world, providing a strong impetus for immigration. Given this situation, any true immigration reform policy must take into account the root causes of the poverty from which many immigrants are trying to escape.