As Congress debated immigration reform legislation earlier this year, attention focused on proposals that would divide the unauthorized population into two groups: Long-term illegal immigrants, generally defined as those who have been in the country for more than five years, who would be eligible for benefits such as a legalization program; and short-term illegal immigrants who would either have to leave the country permanently or leave and then apply for temporary worker status. According to Pew Hispanic estimates based upon U.S. Census data, about 2.5 million unauthorized workers currently in the U.S. arrived here after 2000 — constituting about 35% of the total 7.2 million unauthorized workers now in the United States. The short-term unauthorized, who account for just under 2% of the total U.S. labor force are concentrated in a few sectors of the economy — more than a million are employed in the construction and hospitality industries.
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Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.