Number of Undocumented Immigrants in USA Falls to 12-Year Low, Researchers say

The estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in the USA reached a 12-year low in 2016, continuing a decade-long decline in which that population fell from a high of 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million in 2016, according to a report released Tuesday.

Researchers from the Pew Research Center, which conducted the analysis, said economics played a major role in that fall. The Great Recession wiped out millions of jobs that attracted undocumented immigrants to the USA, while the Mexican economy steadily improved, giving Mexicans more reasons to stay in their country.

Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of global migration and demography research, said the U.S. government’s ever-expanding security presence along the southwestern border – under Democratic and Republican administrations – deterred more immigrants from trying to cross illegally. Shifting demographics in Mexico have left fewer working-age males willing to make the dangerous trek.

“Those are the main themes,” Lopez said.

President Donald Trump keeps pushing his 2016 campaign pledge to complete the southern border wall to prevent illegal immigration, and he described caravans of Central American immigrants arriving at the U.S. border as an “invasion” that threatens national security.

A new report shows the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. declined over the last decade to less than 11 million. (Estimates in millions; data not available for all years):

The Pew report shows that more people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras entered the USA. The share of the undocumented population from Central America increased from 12 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2016.

That increase has not offset the drop in the number of undocumented immigrants of Mexican descent, which fell by 1.5 million over the same time period. The population of Mexico is four times larger than that of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras combined, so fluctuations in Mexican immigration remain the driving force behind the overall undocumented population in the USA.

In fact, Pew concluded in 2015 that more Mexicans returned to their home country than entered the USA, a historic shift in the source of illegal immigration.

By Alan Gomez for USA TODAY
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