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Counting the Uncounted

A look at the 11.5 million “unauthorized” immigrants
  • April 10 2012

Trends in undocumented immigration can reveal potential shifts in the overall ethnic makeup of America, since in many cases it identifies the possibility of “pent-up demand” of foreigners who want to come to the U.S.

The latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate there were about 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in January 2011. That was about the same as it was in 2010. In fact, the report states that “it is unlikely that the unauthorized immigrant population increased after 2007 given relatively high U.S. unemployment, improved economic conditions in Mexico, record low numbers of apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants at U.S. borders, and greater levels of border enforcement.”

According to the report, with 6.8 million, or 59 percent of America’s unauthorized immigrants, Mexico is the leading source country of unauthorized immigration to the U.S. From 2000 to 2011, the Mexican-born unauthorized population increased by 2.1 million, or an annual average of 190,000. The next leading source countries were El Salvador (660,000), Guatemala (520,000), Honduras (380,000) and China (280,000). The Philippines, India, Korea, Ecuador and Vietnam fill out the top 10.

California is the leading state of residence of unauthorized immigrants, with 2.8 million. It was followed by Texas with 1.8 million, Florida (740,000), New York (630,000) and Illinois (550,000). The ten leading states represent 73 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population. The greatest growth among destination states occurred in Georgia, whose estimated unauthorized immigrant population doubled to 440,000 from 2000 to 2011.

In 2011, 59 percent of unauthorized immigrants were ages 25 to 44, and 53 percent were male. Males accounted for 57 percent of the unauthorized population in the 18-to-34 age group in 2011, while females accounted for 57 percent of the 45-and-older age group.


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