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Barack Obama

Factbox: Illegal immigration in the United States

(Reuters) - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed the toughest immigration law in the United States, which requires police in the border state to determine whether people are in the country illegally if there is “reasonable suspicion” that is the case.

President Barack Obama singled out the law as a “misguided” effort that showed the need for national reform and critics charge it will open the door to racial profiling.

Here are some facts about illegal immigrants in the United States, together with some of the policy initiatives taken by federal and state governments to address immigration:

* There were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants living in the United States on January 1, 2009.

* Most were from Latin America, with some 6.7 million from Mexico and 1.33 million from Central American nations El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

* Arizona had a total population of 6.6 million in 2009, including an estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants.

* Obama backs a comprehensive overhaul of federal immigration laws, although analysts have said the administration is unlikely to push ahead with the issue before congressional elections in November. Some Democrats fear the delay could cause a backlash among Latino voters.

* Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants in good standing to pay a fine, learn English and become citizens; as well as tightening border security and clamping down on employers that hire undocumented workers.

* The last attempt to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, by his predecessor, President George W. Bush in 2007, was torpedoed by Republicans in Congress.

* Arizona’s law is the toughest but by no means the only immigration-related measure passed by U.S. states, which traditionally leave border security to the federal government.

* It requires state and local police officers to arrest those unable to provide documentation proving they are in the country legally. It also makes it a crime to transport someone who is an illegal immigrant, and to hire day laborers off the street.

* Last year, legislatures in 48 states enacted 222 immigrant-related laws and adopted 131 resolutions.

Sources: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Census Bureau and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; editing by Todd Eastham

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