Flow of Illegal Immigrants Slows

September 1, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Global & Regional | Government & Politics | Hispanic | Regulatory

The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the US was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Between March 2007 and March 2009, an average of about 300,000 unauthorized immigrants came into the US every year. This number steadily declined from yearly averages of 550,000 between March 2005 and March 2007 and 850,000 between March 2000 and March 2005.


Unauthorized Immigrant Population Grows Since 2000
Despite the recent decline, the population of unauthorized immigrants was nearly a third larger (32%) in 2009 than in 2000, when it numbered 8.4 million. The size of this group has tripled since 1990, when it was 3.5 million. However, the recent sharp decline in authorized immigration has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the US to 11.1 million in March 2009, from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. Pew Hispanic Center analysis indicates the decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population during the past two decades.


An interactive map of unauthorized immigrants in the US is available for viewing.

Non-Mexican Latin Illegal Population Drops 22%
The Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis also finds that the most marked decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants has been among those who come from Latin American countries other than Mexico. From 2007 to 2009, the size of this group from the Caribbean, Central America and South America decreased 22%.

Mexican Illegal Immigration Falls, Population Stabilizes
By contrast, the Mexican unauthorized population (which accounts for about 60% of all unauthorized immigrants) peaked in 2007 at 7 million and has since leveled off. The number of unauthorized immigrants from the rest of the world did not change.

Even though the size of the Mexican unauthorized population living in the US has not changed significantly since 2007, the inflows from that country have fallen off sharply in recent years. According to the Pew Hispanic Center’s estimates, an average of 150,000 unauthorized immigrants from Mexico arrived annually during the March 2007 to March 2009 period, 70% below the annual average of 500,000 that prevailed during the first half of the decade.

Other Findings

  • Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 28% of the nation’s foreign-born population in 2009, a decline from 31% in 2007.
  • Mexico accounted for 60% of unauthorized immigrants in 2009, or 6.7 million people. Other Latin American nations accounted for 20% of the total, or 2.2 million people. South and East Asia accounted for 11% of the total, or 1.2 million people.
  • In 2009, 59% of unauthorized immigrants resided in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and New Jersey. However, the share living in those states has declined from 80% in 1990, as unauthorized immigrants have dispersed to new settlement areas.
  • Nearly half of unauthorized immigrants living in the country in 2009 , 47%, or 5.2 million people, arrived in 2000 or later.
  • The number of male unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 6.3 million and declined to 5.8 million in 2009. The number of female unauthorized immigrants, 4.2 million in 2009, is roughly the same as it was in 2007.
  • The number of children who are unauthorized, 1.1 million in 2009, declined slightly duringr the decade. By contrast, the population of US-born children with at least one unauthorized parent nearly doubled from 2000 to 2009, when they numbered 4 million.
  • There were 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009, or 5.1% of the total. The size of the unauthorized labor force peaked in 2007 and declined in both 2008 and 2009. There were 7 million unauthorized immigrants employed in March 2009.
  • States with the largest shares of immigrants in the labor force are Nevada (9.4%), California (9.3%), Texas (8.7%) and New Jersey (8.7%).
  • The unemployment rate for unauthorized immigrants of all ages in March 2009 was higher than that of US-born workers or legal immigrants, 10.4%, 9.2% and 9.1%, respectively.
  • Illegal Immigrants More Likely to Live in Traditional Household
    Unauthorized immigrants are much more likely than either legal immigrants or native-born adults to live in a household with a spouse and a child or children, according to previous Pew Hispanic estimates.

    Data indicates some 45% of unauthorized immigrants live with a spouse (or cohabiting partner) and child or children, compared with 34% of legal immigrant adults and 21% of U.S.-born adults. Here again, the chief reasons are that unauthorized immigrants tend to be younger and have higher rates of fertility than other adults.

    One byproduct of these demographic patterns is that a substantial share of the undocumented population of this country lives in a so-called mixed-status family; that is, a family with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent and at least one US citizen child.

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