More Mexican immigrants leaving US than entering: Pew

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(Reuters) -- More Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering it according to a report released on Thursday, at a time when some Republicans, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, have taken a hard line on illegal immigration.

Most Mexicans leaving the United States are doing so voluntarily to reunite with their family or to start one, the report by the Pew Research Center showed.

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From 2009 to 2014, more than one million Mexicans and their families left the United States for Mexico, while more than 865,000 entered the United States, Pew said. The figures include unauthorized immigrants.

An increasing share of Mexicans says life north of the border is neither better nor worse than life in Mexico, Pew said.

The overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, Pew said.

The findings follow Trump's call for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, a plan President Barack Obama has said is too costly and un-American.

Trump, a real estate billionaire who has been among the leading candidates for the Republican nomination in the presidential 2016 election, also said he would get the Mexican government to pay for building a wall along the border.

More than 16 million Mexican immigrants have migrated to the United States in the last 50 years, more than from any other country, Pew said.

From fewer than 1 million living in the United States in 1970, the number of Mexican immigrants peaked at 12.8 million by 2007, Pew said. The total declined to 11.7 million last year.

See the stories of people leaving the United States:

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Many Mexicans leaving the US
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The drop is mostly due to a decrease of more than 1 million unauthorized immigrants from a peak of 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2014, Pew said. Still, unauthorized immigrants from Mexico account for about half of all U.S. unauthorized immigrants.

Pew has been tracking flows for about 15 years, said Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a research associate who wrote the report. For its report, Pew analyzed government data from both countries.

"This is the first time that we have the actual evidence and numbers of people going back," she said.

About half of all adults in Mexico believe those who moved to the United States lead better lives, but 33 percent say life is neither better nor worse north of the border, up from 23 percent in 2007, Pew said.

Other reasons for the decreased inflow include the slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the recession and stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws at the border.

Related: Feelings on immigration in California:

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Immigration in California
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More Mexican immigrants leaving US than entering: Pew
Demonstrators yell slogans during second day of anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protests inside Terminal 4 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Demonstrators hold welcome signs for immigrants during second day of anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protests inside Terminal 4 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Running for U.S. Senate in California congresswoman Loretta Sanchez holds a news conference on comprehensive immigration reform in San Diego, California, U.S., November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Valente Martinez, 22, marches with Mexican and U.S. flags under an inflatable effigy of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during an immigrant rights May Day rally in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 1, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 7: Anti-immigration activists protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 7: Anti-immigration activist Sabina Durden (R) and immigration sympathizer Mary Estrada (L) debate during a protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Irma Castillo, outreach coordinator with United Farm Workers Foundation, left, gives Erica Montoya, 32, right, paperwork during an immigration workshop in Hanford, California, U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. President Barack Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in November as a response to Congress' unwillingness to update a policy that both parties agree is flawed. Recipients would enter the formal economy with work permits and Social Security numbers, creating a legal workforce for businesses, greater security for themselves and revenue for government coffers. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Juan Barbosa, 23, of Bakersfield, looks at a confirmation of petition acceptance for his application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) employment authorization renewal at the United Farm Workers Foundation offices in Bakersfield, California, U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. President Barack Obama announced his DACA program in November as a response to Congress' unwillingness to update a policy that both parties agree is flawed. Recipients would enter the formal economy with work permits and Social Security numbers, creating a legal workforce for businesses, greater security for themselves and revenue for government coffers. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
EL MONTE, CALIFORNIA , DECEMBER 10, 2014: Letisia Huertado (left) helps Destiny Valle (middle) and Ashley Vargas (right) construct sentences in their first grade class at Parkview School, on December 10, 2014 in El Monte. State education officials are preparing to issue the first report documenting the number of students who have continued to struggle with substandard English for more than 7 years, even though most of them were born in the United States. But some schools have developed effective programs to prevent young children born to immigrant families from becoming so-called long-term English learners. (Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA OCTOBER 3, 2014 -- Josephine Lopez, 84, from Perris Ca, joins immigrant-rights supporters celebrating the passage of AB 60, which will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses starting in January 2015 on Friday October 3, 2014. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
GRANADA HILLS, CA - JANUARY 2, 2015: Immigrants without legal status line up to apply for California driver licenses at DMV offices January 2, 2015 in Granada Hills. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
GRANADA HILLS, CA - JANUARY 2, 2015: Immigrants without legal status line up to apply for California driver licenses at DMV offices January 2, 2015 in Granada Hills. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Children of poor migrant families receive backpacks filled with school supplies before the start of the new school year during a charity event at the Los Angeles Mission's 'skid row' headquarters on August 9, 2014. US conservatives recently commented on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's 'war on poverty' to dispute the effectiveness of existing policies, and urge a welfare state overhaul. Five decades and trillions of dollars after President Johnson waged his war on poverty they said a staggering 49 million Americans are still living below the poverty line AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 7: Immigrant rights activist Mary Estrada (R) speaks with anti-immigration activists during a protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA OCTOBER 3, 2014 -- Axel Paredes, 40, an immigrant (undocumented) worker who has been in the US for 10 years celebrates with supporters the passage of AB 60, which will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses starting in January 2015 outside city hall Friday, October 3, 2014.. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Children hold banners and placards while listening to speakers at a rally outside the 9th Circuit federal court in Pasadena, California on July 16, 2015, where Immigrant rights organizations, labor, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from Arizona and Los Angeles gathered. After a multiple-year legal battle, the state of Arizona's embattled efforts to deny driver's licenses to immigrants who have been granted DACA under a federal program will face what could be yet another blow to Arizona when the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears oral arguments this Thursday in a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups challenging the discriminatory policy. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA FEB. 17, 2015: Immigration reform supporters listen to speakers talk about expanded federal immigration programs that will allow millions of immigrants to stay in the country and receive work permits for three years at Los Angeles City Hall Monday, Feb. 17, 2015. Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo joined Rep. Judy Chu and others to talk about expanded federal immigration programs that will allow millions of immigrants to stay in the country and receive work permits for three years. One of the programs, which applies to people who arrived in the country as children under the age of 16, will be expanded on Wednesday. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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