December 08, 2018

Number from Mexico continues to decline, while Central America is the only growing region

Line charts showing that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. declined over the past decade. Those from Mexico have decreased. Most are now long-term residents.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on 2016 government data. The decline is due almost entirely to a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans entering the country without authorization.

But the Mexican border remains a pathway for entry by growing numbers of unauthorized immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Because of them, Central America was the only birth region accounting for more U.S. unauthorized immigrants in 2016 than in 2007.

There were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007, according to the new estimates.

The total is the lowest since 2004. It is tied to a decline of 1.5 million people in the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants from 2007 to 2016. Nevertheless, Mexico remains the country of origin for 5.4 million unauthorized immigrants, or roughly half of the U.S. total.

The declining overall number of unauthorized immigrants is due mainly to a very large drop in the number of new unauthorized immigrants, especially Mexicans, coming into the country. Consequently, today’s unauthorized immigrant population includes a smaller share of recent arrivals, especially from Mexico, than a decade earlier. Increasingly unauthorized immigrants are likely to be long-term U.S. residents: Two-thirds of adult unauthorized immigrants have lived in the country for more than 10 years.

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