U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Total Dips to Lowest Level in a Decade

U.S. Unauthorized

Immigrant Total Dips to

Lowest Level in a Decade


This week, the Pew Research Center reported that the numbers of unauthorized immigrants in the US has continued its steady decline that has been underway since 2004. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2018/11/27/u-s-unauthorized-immigrant-total-dips-to-lowest-level-in-a-decade/ Maybe someone should tell the President this news.

There were about 10.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the US in 2016, declining from a high point of 12.2 million in 2007.  Two thirds have lived in this country for more than ten years. The average undocumented immigrant has been in this country for 15 years.

Most of the decline is in undocumented immigrants from Mexico. This is due to better economic prospects in Mexico so fewer migrants are coming to the US for jobs and more immigrants returning home due to the improving Mexican economy. Also the Great Recession of 2008 caused many migrants to lose their jobs in the US and return to their nation of origin.

While the undocumented immigrant population declined by 13% since 2007, lawful immigrants increased by 22%. The total lawful immigrant population is 34.4 million.

Of the lawful immigrant population, President Trump is seeking to revoke status for about one million individuals. This includes both the Dreamers (DACA) and individuals with temporary protected status (e.g. Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras where earthquakes and other natural disasters have forced residents to flee) that President Trump is seeking to revoke.

Central American immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been increasing over the past decade due to the massive violence associated with the drug trade, political repression and civil unrest in these Central America nations.

Most unauthorized immigrants from Central America and Mexico cross at the border whereas most unauthorized immigrants from the rest of the world come by plane and simply overstay their visas.

New arrivals (i.e. within the last five years) are less than 1/5th of all unauthorized immigrants. Increasingly new arrivals are from Asia and Central America, while the share of new Mexican unauthorized immigration has fallen from half in 2007 to 1/4th in 2016.

Deportations steadily rose during the Bush and Obama Administrations and peaked in 2013; then they began to decline during the remainder of the Obama and beginning of the Trump Administrations, as the numbers of new entrants declined.


Most undocumented immigrants live with spouses and children who have legal status as US citizens, or legal permanent residents – mixed status families. About 5 million US born citizen children live with an undocumented parent. The numbers of undocumented children living in the US have fallen by over 50% to 700,000 children.

As the numbers of undocumented have declined, their share of the workforce has fallen from 5.8% to 4.8%. Their employment is concentrated primarily in low wage jobs in farming and construction.

The numbers of undocumented fell quite dramatically in a dozen states, such as California (550,000 person decline) and Arizona (220,000 person decline). Numbers increased in three states, including Massachusetts (35,000 person increase).

Most Americans have sympathy for the undocumented and do not believe they take the jobs of American workers. They favor legal permanent residency for the Dreamers. They would like to see an immigration bill approved that improves law enforcement at the borders and regularizes the status of undocumented already in the country. Republicans are more strongly in favor of border enforcement and Democrats more strongly favor a path to citizenship for long time residents.

With the landslide election of President Lopez Obrador in Mexico and President Trump’s steady fixation on reducing the numbers of legal and unauthorized immigrants and his frequent rhetorical excesses on the subject, the relationship between Mexico and the US is going to get very, very interesting.


Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin

Dated: 12/1/18




President George Herbert Walker Bush

State of Reform – Single Payer Panel