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World

Fewer Mexicans Drive Changes in U.S. Immigrant Population

Great Recession of 2008 the major cause in dropping number of Mexicans in the United States, though Mexico still largest migrant population by some distance

Ana Gomez, wearing a cap reading "Immigrants Make America Great" in the style of hats worn by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, greets Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Tamp Bay, Florida, photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder
1 year ago

The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally has changed little since the Great Recession began, dropping to 11.1 million in 2014 from 11.2 million in 2012 and 11.3 million in 2009, according to a study released Tuesday by Pew Research Center.

The population peaked at 12.2 million in 2007. Pew, which reached conclusions by subtracting the estimated number of legal immigrants from census data on the foreign-born, found that a declining number of Mexicans has had a profound impact in parts of the country.

WHERE ARE THEY FROM?

The number of Mexicans in the U.S. illegally has dropped sharply since the Great Recession began to 5.8 million in 2014, unchanged from 2012 but down from 6.3 million in 2009 and a peak of 6.9 million in 2007. Last year, Pew said more Mexicans were returning to Mexico than arriving.

The drop in Mexicans is nearly offset by an increase in Asians, Africans and Central Americans. The number of Central Americans in the U.S. illegally hit 1.7 million in 2014, up 110,000 from 2009. The number of Asians in the country illegally jumped by about 130,000 during the five-year period to 1.4 million, with notable increases of people from India, China, the Philippines and South Korea.

Mexicans still account for 52 percent of people in the U.S. illegally in 2014 down from 56 percent in 2009 but still the largest nationality by far.

Central American migrants waiting atop wagons while waiting for the freight train "La Bestia", or the Beast, to travel to north Mexico to reach and cross the U.S. border, 2012. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata

Central American migrants waiting atop wagons while waiting for the freight train “La Bestia”, or the Beast, to travel to north Mexico to reach and cross the U.S. border, 2012. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata

WHICH STATES ARE SEEING THE BIGGEST CHANGE?

The number of people in the U.S. illegally dropped in seven states from 2009 to 2014 due to fewer Mexicans— Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. California had the biggest numerical drop, down 190,000 to 2.3 million.

The number of immigrants in the country illegally grew in six states during the same period — Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Louisiana saw an increase from Mexico. Increases in the five other states were due to higher numbers from countries other than Mexico. New Jersey and Pennsylvania had the biggest numerical increases, up by 50,000 each.

Mexico was still the leading birth country for people in the country illegally in at least 38 states. El Salvador is the leading birth country for those living illegally in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The Philippines is the leading source in Alaska and Hawaii. Brazil is the top sender for Massachusetts, India in New Hampshire, and Guatemala in Rhode Island.

Most people in the country illegally lived in six states — California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois — in that order. Nevada had the highest share of its population made up of people in the country illegally (7.2 percent), followed by Texas (6.1 percent), California (6 percent) and New Jersey (5.4 percent).

HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN HERE?

People in the country illegally are more likely to have been here a long time. That’s particularly true in western states with deeply established Mexican populations.

The median length of time in the country for those in the U.S. illegally was 13.6 years in 2014, up from 7.1 years in 1995.

The median length of time in the U.S. for residents there illegally was 15.6 years in California.

Only five states had a median length of stay shorter than 10 years — Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and Ohio.

ELLIOT SPAGAT

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