NOVEMBER 20, 2015


Illegal immigration remains a hotly contested issue as the 2016 presidential campaigns get underway. While Democrats have largely supported a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and backed President Barack Obama’s programs to shield from deportation young people brought to the U.S. as children illegally, Republicans have largely opposed them.

Mexican Unauthorized Immigrant Population Declines Since 2007 PeakMore recently, debate about illegal immigration has focused on those from Mexico, the largest single group of immigrants in the United States. Pew Research Center tracks the origins of unauthorized immigrants, their participation in the labor force and where in the U.S. they are settling.

Here’s what we know about illegal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico:

1The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined. In 2014, 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico lived in the U.S., down by about 1 million since 2007. Despite the drop, Mexicans still make up about half (49% in 2014) of unauthorized immigrants. At the same time, unauthorized immigration overall has leveled off in recent years.

2Border Apprehensions in 2014More non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended at U.S. borders in 2014, the first time on record this has happened. In fiscal 2014,229,178 Mexicans were apprehended, a sharp drop from a peak of 1.6 million apprehended in 2000. The decline in apprehensions reflects the decrease in number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.

3Even as border apprehensions dropped, deportations of Mexican immigrants reached a record high in 2013 of314,904, up from 169,031 in 2005. This is due in part to a 2005 shift in policy that has increased the chances of being deported following apprehension in the border region, instead of just being sent back without an order of removal.

4Mexican unauthorized immigrants are more likely than unauthorized immigrants overall to work in the construction industry and less likely to work in services. Among Mexican unauthorized immigrants ages 16 and older who were employed in 2012, 19% worked in construction and 13% worked in a wide range of businesses like legal services, landscaping and car washes. By comparison, amongunauthorized immigrant workers overall, 16% worked in construction and 22% in services.

5Unauthorized immigrants from Mexico make up at least 75% of the total unauthorized immigrant population in 10 states: New Mexico (89%), Arizona (84%), Idaho (83%), Wyoming (82%), Colorado (78%), Oklahoma (76%), Wisconsin (76%), Kansas (75%), Oregon (75%) and Texas (75%). Among these states, half saw a decline in the unauthorized immigrant population from 2009 to 2012. Among all states, California saw the largest decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants (90,000) during this time period. The Golden State is also home to 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico, the most in the nation.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on July 5.

Photo of Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

 is a research associate focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


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