How America’s Idea Of Illegal Immigration Doesn’t Always Match Reality : NPR

A very good analysis with sound data that provide context to US immigration debates and policies:

When you think of illegal immigration in the U.S., do you picture a border crosser or a visa overstayer? A family or a single person? A farmworker or a waiter?

People living in the U.S. without legal status are frequently invoked in American politics — especially in recent months. But the conversation is often short on facts about the millions of people who fall into this category.

There are, however, outdated beliefs: A Pew Research Center survey in 2015 found that very few Americans are aware of recent changes in immigration patterns.

Here’s a look at the actual statistics about people living in the U.S. illegally.

We should note that there are a few caveats about this data. Different research groups use different methodologies, and in some cases, they rely on estimates. We’ve included links to all our data sources so you can read about their methods in more detail.

About 11 million people live in the U.S. without authorization

There are far more naturalized citizens than unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., and slightly more green card holders, according to the Pew Research Center.

The total number of people living in the country illegally — about 11 million — has made headlines recently, because immigration advocates suggest that under the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, almost all of them could be targeted for deportation. (More than 700,000 “DREAMers” — immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas as children — are still temporarily protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.)

Longtime residents outnumber new arrivals

A large majority of those people currently living in the U.S. illegally have been here for a decade or longer, which is a major shift from the situation at the turn of the millennium.

About two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, Pew says. Only 14 percent arrived within the past five years.

In the late 1990s, the number of new arrivals was far higher, and the share of longtime residents far lower.

Mexicans make up a dominant — but declining — share of this population

Mexico is “the leading nation of origin for U.S. unauthorized immigrants,” Pew writes, but the share of immigrants from Mexico is also declining.

That is to say, Mexican immigrants are a shrinking majority of the population living in the country through illegal immigration.

Of people living in the U.S. illegally, more than half are from Mexico. The population from that one country far outnumbers the population from entire continents. But there are fewer people of Mexican origin living in the U.S. now than there were a decade ago.

You can see the trend lines clearly if you look just at people arriving in the U.S. illegally, instead of the millions who live here. The percentage arriving from Mexico has dropped markedly, while more immigrants are coming from Africa, Central America and Asia.

The reasons for the shifting immigration patterns are complex. For Central American immigrants, conflicts in their home countries certainly play a role. The Migration Policy Institute suggests that there might be similar reasons for increased migration from Asia and Africa.

Source: How America’s Idea Of Illegal Immigration Doesn’t Always Match Reality : The Two-Way : NPR

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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