McMurray’s Illegal Immigration Claim is Only Part of The Story

Democrat Nate McMurray, who is campaigning for a second time for the 27th Congressional District seat, made a claim recently about illegal immigration during the Obama administration.

“Under Barack Obama illegal immigration dropped to a 50-year low (look it up),” he said in a post on Twitter.

Immigration continues to be a topic that Americans care about and candidates talk about, so we wanted to see if McMurray is correct. His instruction to “look it up” struck us as an invitation for a factcheck.

What the Grand Island supervisor meant by “illegal immigration” remains unclear. His spokesperson did not clarify it for us. Demographers who study immigration look at data from several sources to get a sense of how many people cross the border illegally and how many enter legally but then overstay their visas. They also look at how the population of people who live in the United States without authorization changes over time. That number rises and falls as more undocumented immigrants enter the country while others die, become citizens or leave the country.

McMurray responded to a Twitter user asking for evidence of his claim, and he tweeted the link to a report from the pro-immigration Center for Migration Studies.

In the report, “The U.S. Undocumented Population Fell Sharply During the Obama Era: Estimates for 2016,” author Robert Warren found that the population of undocumented people fell to 10.8 million in 2016, Obama’s last full year in office, the lowest level since 2003.

The report does not go back 50 years. It does show that the undocumented population was once much lower. Using data on 18 countries that account for 88 percent of the undocumented population, the report shows that in 1990, the undocumented population was 3.5 million, and in 2000 it was 8.6 million.

Another study, from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, found that the population of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007, before Obama took office, at 12.2 million and fell to 10.5 million in 2017, just after he left the presidency.

By Jill Terreri Ramos for POLITIFACT.COM
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