The sharp decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants that accompanied the Great Recession in the U.S. has stalled, according to the Pew Research Center, but the number may be rising again. As of March 2012, 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, according to a new preliminary estimate by Pew that is based on U.S. government data.
According to Pew, the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 and fell to 11.3 million in 2009, breaking a rising trend that had held for decades. Although there are indications the number of unauthorized immigrants may be rising, the 2012 population estimate is statistically no different from the 2009 estimate.
These new estimates replace previously published Pew Research Center estimates for 2000-2011 to account for new findings from the 2010 Census. These estimates also introduce a new data source - the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) for 2005 to 2011, replacing the March Current Population Survey (CPS) for those years. The ACS has about 12 times more sample cases than the CPS and thus provides more precise estimates with smaller margins of error.
The legal immigrant population has continued to increase in recent years, making unauthorized immigrants a somewhat smaller share of the foreign-born population of 41.7 million in 2012 (28%) than in 2007 (30%). Unauthorized immigrants still represented a much higher share of all immigrants in 2012 than in 1995 (21%).
Different trends appear among the six states in which 60% of unauthorized immigrants live - California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. Of these, only Texas had increases but no decrease in its unauthorized population during the 2007-2011 period. California, Illinois and New York had only declines. As foreign-born residents have moved into new destinations, these six states are not as dominant as they once were. In 2012, 60% of the unauthorized immigrant population lived in those states, compared with 80% in 1990. The Pew Research Center will publish estimates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in a later report.
Most of the U.S. unauthorized population comes from Mexico - 52% in 2012. The post-2007 population dip, however, was sharper among Mexicans than for unauthorized immigrants as a whole. The unauthorized Mexican immigrant population grew dramatically through 2007, reaching a peak of 6.9 million, or almost five times the number in 1990 (1.4 million). The growth trend reversed abruptly after 2007. In 2012, there were 6.05 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants - 900,000 fewer than in 2007.
The number of unauthorized immigrants from countries other than Mexico also grew steadily through 2007 to 5.25 million. This group declined in 2008, held steady in 2009, and rose in 2010 compared with the previous year. The 2011 total was unchanged from 2010 but higher than it had been in 2009. The 2012 total (5.65 million) appears to be higher than the 2007 peak, but that finding cannot be confirmed because of the large margin of error in the 2012 estimate.