According to the Pew research organization, the number of illegal immigrants in America has stabilized after decades of rapid growth. However, the countries contributing migrants has changed: the number originating in Mexico has declined since 2009, while the number from elsewhere – including Africa – has continued to rise.
The Pew Research Center offered a number of salient numbers:
In 2014, there were 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. This number remained unchanged since 2009 and accounts for 3.5% of the U.S. total population. The number of illegal immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when it represented 4% of the American population.
While Mexican nationals constituted 52% of all illegal immigrants in 2014, their numbers have declined in recent years. In 2014, there were 5.8 million Mexican illegal immigrants living in the U.S: down from 6.4 million in 2009.
The number of Mexicans declines
The number of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico grew by 325,000 since 2009, to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014. Asia and Central America both contributed the most to this surge, but countries in sub-Saharan Africa also showed an increase. The increases in the number of illegal immigrants from other countries offset the decline in the number of Mexican nationals.
Six states proved to be the most attractive for illegal immigrants, accounting for 59% of them: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. But some state populations had changed since 2009, despite the stable trend at the national level. Also, from 2009 to 2014, the illegal immigrant population decreased in seven states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina. In all of them, the decline was because of a drop in the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico. In six states, the illegal immigrant population rose during the same time period: Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. In all of these, with the exception of Louisiana, the increases were due to growth in illegal immigrant populations from nations other than Mexico. In Louisiana, it was an increase in Mexican illegal immigrants that drove the overall increase in the number of illegal immigrants.
More illegal immigrants stay 10+ years
An increasing number of illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years. About two-thirds (66%) of adults in 2014 had been in the U.S. at least a decade, compared with 41% in 2005. A declining share of illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years – 14% of adults in 2014, compared with 31% in 2005. In 2014, illegal immigrant adults had lived in the U.S. for a median of 13.6 years, according to Pew, which means that half had been in the country at least that long. Only 7% of Mexican illegal immigrants had been in the U.S. for less than five years in 2014, compared with 22% of those from all other countries.
African and Haitian migrants queue at immigration processing center in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico.
Recently, Mexico and several Central American have noted a significant uptick in the number of African migrants seeking passage north to the U.S. Media reports in Mexico indicate that from January to July this year, the number of migrants from outside of the Americas rose to 10,000. Then, in just two months, the number rose to 12, 000, making 2016 a record year. According to researcher Rafael Alarcón Acosta of the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, one of the most significant groups comes from Haiti. The analyst said that Haitians are coming to Mexico in the expectation that they will be received in the U.S. under Temporary Protective Status. These migrants are now barred from entering the U.S. and have settled temorarily in Tijuana, unless they are appealing for asylum. He has characterized the phenomenon as a humanitarian crisis for Mexico.
Suggesting alarm among customs and immigration officials in the U.S., Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced last week that ICE agents will begin deporting Haitian illegal immigrants picked up at the border through a process known as expedited removal. However, Johnson said those claiming asylum will still be allowed to make their case. “Consistent with law, individuals who express a fear of return to Haiti will be screened by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer to determine whether they possess a credible fear of persecution or torture. Those determined to have a credible fear will be referred to immigration court for removal proceedings where they may apply for asylum or other forms of relief,” Johnson said in a statement. Temporary Protected Status was extended by the U.S. to Haitians in the wake of the 2010 earthquake's devastation.
Persons asking for asylum get their day in court during the appeal process and can thus remain in the U.S. to work while their cases are being heard. The process can take years while it is being heard in immigration courts.
Fear of Donald Trump
According to a UN official, Claudette Walls of International Organization for Migration, the current political climate in the U.S. is a factor that is driving the exodus from Africa and Haiti. She told local media recently, "We have heard that a very strong factor in their migration is precisely the political situation in the United States: the rumor in these countries is that a new administration may be more exclusionary with regard to migration and make it more difficult for them to enter the U.S. in the coming months and years." It is widely known in Mexico and elsewhere that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised to impose stricter immigration controls and even build a physical wall between the U.S. and its southern neighbor. Mexico, for its part, has deported and increasing number of migrants that arrive in-country. Hundreds of Haitians have assembled at Mexico's visa processing center in Tapachula, a city near the border with Guatemala, to apply for transit visas. The facility can process only 300 applicants per day and is currently overwhelmed, as is the U.S. immigration processing center in San Ysidro, California, which is limiting itself to processing 150 Haitians per day.
Following the terrific earthquake of 2010 in Haiti, Brazil opened its borders to Haitians as a humanitarian measure. Brazil also offers visas to Africans and Asians. It is thus that these migrants go to Brazil and then walk or take other transportation to Colombia, Venezuela, and other South American countries and wind up in Central America. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which also contribute many of their citizens to the exodus to the north, are now transit countries for migrants coming from elsewhere in the world who seek admittance to the U.S.