As immigration professionals, we at U.S. Law Center feel it’s important to fight misinformation and stereotyping whenever possible. Therefore, we were interested in a new study by the Pew Research Center finding that Mexicans no longer make up the majority of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. For the first time in a decade, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. from other countries overtook the number from Mexico.
The study used data from the U.S. Census Bureau. According to those numbers, there were about 5.6 million Mexican nationals living here without appropriate documentation last year. That’s almost half the unauthorized immigrant population — people from Mexico still make up the largest single group.
However, people have been arriving from other countries at a growing rate since the end of the Great Recession. In 2016, these made up an estimated 5.7 million in total. The areas with the most in-migration to the U.S. were Central America, India and China.
It’s interesting that entries from Mexico aren’t comparatively higher, according to one Pew demographer. Historically, people from Mexico are more prone to come to the U.S. when the economy is strong.
“That kind of explanation fit very well from 1990 through 2009,” he told NPR. “Since 2009, though, the number of Mexicans has continued to fall and the unemployment situation in the U.S. has continued to improve. So it appears … that linkage has broken.”
Today, we’re seeing an uptick in immigration from Asia and Central America instead of Mexico. Does the demographer think we will see substantial growth in Mexican immigration in the years to come? No. Besides the possibility of a border wall making it harder to get across, Mexico is experiencing a drop in its youth population and a declining birth rate, which make emigration less attractive or necessary.
“A lot of Mexican unauthorized migration was related to family and friendship linkages between people in Mexico and immigrants in the U.S.,” the demographer added, noting that the lower number of recent immigrants from Mexico may mean there are fewer such ties.
The Pew study also reported the first hard data that unauthorized immigrants are actively leaving the U.S. This report contains the first overall drop in the number of people here illegally. Since the end of the Great Recession, that number has fallen from 11.3 million to just 11 million.