Obama's plan to use executive power to move forward immigration reform. (Photo via The White House Flickr Account)

Obama’s plan to use executive power to move forward immigration reform could have bigger impact on Florida as unauthorized population grows in the state. (Photo via The White House Flickr Account)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

As President Barack Obama discusses plans to relieve about 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation, new numbers show Florida’s undocumented population has grown.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, “five East Coast states were among those where the number of unauthorized immigrants grew from 2009 to 2012—Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.”

The study found numbers also rose in Idaho and Nebraska, which means Florida is one of only seven states with an undocumented population increase in the country in the past few years.

According to the report, from 2009 to 2012, Florida’s population grew from about 875,000 to roughly 925,000.

In comparison, Pew Research also found that fourteen states saw a decrease in their respective undocumented population numbers.

Why did unauthorized immigrant populations decline in 14 states from 2009 to 2012? According to a Pew Research analysis, the losses in 13 of them were due to drops in the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico. The exception was Massachusetts, where the overall decrease was due to a decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

In six of the seven states where populations of unauthorized immigrants grew from 2009 to 2012, it was because the number of non-Mexicans increased; the number of Mexicans declined or did not change. The exception was Nebraska, which had a small but statistically significant increase in Mexican unauthorized immigrants in those years.

There is wide variety in state populations of unauthorized immigrants, according to the Pew Research estimates. More than half the 2012 unauthorized immigrant population (60%) lived in the six states with the largest numbers of such immigrants—California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. At the opposite end, six states (Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia), had fewer than 5,000 unauthorized immigrants each in 2012.

Because Florida now has a growing share of undocumented immigrants, news that Obama is forging ahead alone with immigration reform has a greater impact on the Sunshine State.

Reuters reported Wednesday afternoon,

President Barack Obama is set on Thursday to outline a controversial plan to relax U.S. immigration policy and grant relief from deportation to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants in a go-it-alone move that will deepen a partisan divide with Republicans.

Sources close to the administration said the rollout would include a televised speech by Obama on Thursday night laying out the plan followed by a trip to Las Vegas on Friday to build support. Nevada is home to the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants in the country.

The White House declined to comment on the specific timing of the announcement but officials have made clear Obama was planning to take executive action soon. Some conservative Republicans have threatened to try to thwart the immigration move by imposing funding restrictions in a must-pass spending bill, which could conceivably raise the possibility of a government shutdown.

Frustrated by years of congressional inaction on what most in Washington agree is a broken immigration system, Obama is planning to issue a reprieve from deportation that will cover some parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

That initiative would expand on a 2012 executive order by the president that gave relief from deportation and work permits to undocumented children brought to the United States by their parents.

There is also expected to be a border security element and Obama will act to help companies hire and retain high-skilled workers from abroad, the sources said.

Obama’s announcement comes shortly after midterm elections in which Republicans—who have been largely opposed to relieving immigrants from deportation—picked up seats across the country. The GOP now has control of the U.S. House and Senate. However, Obama has long warned he would act without Congress on immigration if need be.