September 17, 2019
Mexicans decline to less than half the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population for the first time
WASHINGTON – (INT) - The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants in the United States declined so sharply over the past decade that they no longer are the majority of those living in the country illegally, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data.

In 2017, there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., including 4.9 million Mexicans.

The decrease in the Mexican born was the major factor driving down the overall population of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., which in 2017 was 1.7 million below its peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants declined because more left the U.S. than arrived. Mexicans remain a much larger percentage of all unauthorized immigrants than those from any other birth country. But their 47% share of U.S. unauthorized immigrants in 2017 amounted to less than a majority for the first time since the beginning of a long era of growth in illegal immigration a half century ago.

The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants has fallen by 2 million since its peak of 6.9 million in 2007 and was lower in 2017 than in any year since 2001. Similarly, the number of apprehensions of Mexicans at the U.S. border also has fallen over the decade, a trend that began even earlier. In fact, apprehensions of non-Mexicans outnumbered those of Mexicans for the past three fiscal years, according to federal statistics.

As the number of Mexicans decreased, unauthorized immigrants from other parts of the world increased. There were 5.5 million non-Mexican unauthorized immigrants in 2017, compared with 5.3 million in 2007. The non-Mexican number also ticked up from 2016 to 2017, offsetting the decline of Mexicans. As a result, the overall population of unauthorized immigrants statistically did not change in 2017 from the year before; the total in both years was the lowest since 2004.

The decline in unauthorized immigrants from Mexico and rise from other parts of the world is one sign of a change in how recent arrivals to this population enter the country. A growing share of U.S. unauthorized immigrants do not cross the border illegally, but probably arrive with legal visas and overstay their required departure date. These “likely overstays” have made up a large majority of unauthorized immigrant arrivals since 2010, according to Pew Research Center analysis.

Rising numbers from Asia and Central America

The number of unauthorized immigrants rose over the 2007-2017 decade from two birth regions: Asia and Central America. The numbers declined over the past decade from two others: South America and the combined regions of Europe and Canada. The decline was statistically significant among European-born unauthorized immigrants, but not among those from Canada.
Story Date: June 13, 2019
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