By Jose A. Del Real
New York Times News Service
Shortly after then-candidate Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign, he suggested the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States could exceed 30 million. But a new study puts the number far lower and shows a significant decline over more than a decade.
The study, published by the Pew Research Center on Tuesday, put the number of immigrants living in the United States illegally at 10.7 million in 2016, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.
As Pew analyzed new data from recent years, its researchers found that “it wasn’t just that the numbers declined, but also who these unauthorized immigrants are had changed since 2007,” said D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer at Pew Research.
The estimates are derived from figures published by sources like the Census Bureau, which accounts for foreign-born people living in the United States, along with other demographic data including death rates and legal border admissions.
As of 2016, the most recent data available, the number of people living in the United States without documents decreased to 10.7 million from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. The sharp decline came largely during the Obama administration and in the wake of the Great Recession. Deportations also sharply rose during that time.
In 2016 there were 1.5 million fewer unauthorized Mexicans living in the United States than in 2007. While they still make up a majority of immigrants living in the United States illegally today, migration out of Mexico has slowed. Pew notes that, according to survey data by the Mexican government, “the majority cited family reunification as the main reason” for returning to Mexico.
There has also been a sharp decrease in the number of “recent arrivals” — immigrants who entered the country within the last five years.
In contrast, the number of migrants from Central America living in the United States illegally rose somewhat between 2007 and 2016, amid increased violence and economic uncertainty in the Northern Triangle region.
Because of limited statistical data, it is hard to account for how many unauthorized immigrants in the United States are here as a result of overstaying a visa. But those migrants increasingly appear to make up a significant share of overall illegal immigration.
Such immigrants “probably constituted most of the recent unauthorized immigrant arrivals in 2016,” according to the report.