The Number of Undocumented Immigrants in U.S. Is Still Falling

By
2015 PEOPLE En Espanol Festival Day 2 - Mainstage
Maybe they've been watching the Republican debates.Photo: Brad Barket/2015 Getty Images

This summer, when Donald Trump wildly overstated the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, it turned out that he was even more wrong than the fact-checkers said he was. According to a new report from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank, the total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has fallen to 10.9 million, the lowest it’s been since 2004. What’s more, the decline in numbers seems to have accelerated since 2010. 

“Despite the claims of an ever-rising, out-of-control U.S. undocumented population, the number of undocumented has fallen each year since 2008,” said Donald Kerwin, the think tank’s executive director. “In addition, the number and percentage of foreign-born persons with legal status has increased.”

Although it’s difficult to pin down how many immigrants are coming into the U.S. illegally, one good estimate suggests that 120,000 people came in last year. Historically, about half of the undocumented arrivals have been from Mexico, and this new report notes their numbers are falling most precipitously: The Mexican undocumented population has shrunk by about 600,000 since 2010, and in 2014, about 250,000 fewer undocumented Mexican migrants lived in California alone than in 2010.

Why the decline? The report doesn’t cite a particular reason, but as the Washington Post notes, “a combination of tighter U.S. border security measures and economic and demographic changes in Mexico, such as women having fewer children.” The Post adds that “a key sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population — demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.” 

Kerwin suggests these findings should be important to candidates for the presidency as they work out their immigration policies. In other words, Mr. Trump, it’s time to rethink that wall.