Illegal immigration dips to pre-Obama levels

The number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. fell to its lowest level since the end of the Great Recession, a decline punctuated in part by a steady drop in the number of Mexicans without legal status, a new study shows.

An analysis of U.S. census data by Pew Research Center, published Tuesday, found there were 11 million immigrants in the country illegally in 2015 — roughly 3 percent fewer than the 11.3 million undocumented people in 2009, when the economic downturn bottomed out. During that same six-year period, the number of Mexicans in the country illegally plunged to 5.6 million from 6.4 million.

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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer's patch is seen as they unveil a new mobile app for international travelers arriving at Miami International Airport on March 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade Aviation Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a new mobile app for expedited passport and customs screening. The app for iOS and Android devices allows U.S. citizens and some Canadian citizens to enter and submit their passport and customs declaration information using their smartphone or tablet and to help avoid the long waits in the exit lanes.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A phone is passed over a scanner during a demonstration in the use of the new mobile app for expedited passport and customer screening being unveiled for international travelers arriving at Miami International Airport on March 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade Aviation Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a new mobile app for expedited passport and customs screening. The app for iOS and Android devices allows U.S. citizens and some Canadian citizens to enter and submit their passport and customs declaration information using their smartphone or tablet and to help avoid the long waits in the exit lanes.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Entrance of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters is seen as people protest recent Executive Actions and anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the Trump administration in Washington, USA on March 7, 2017.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Some of the more than $1-million in cash, collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Laredo, Texas port of entry in two separate southbound enforcement actions, is seen after being seized in this undated handout photo released by the CBP July 27, 2010. CBP officers on July 22, 2010 seized $506,057 in undeclared cash from a 36-year-old male Mexican citizen from Brookshire, Texas, who was driving south into Mexico. The second money seizure occurred on July 25, 2010 as CBP Field Operations Officers and Border Patrol (BP) agents seized 50 bundles containing $607,629 in undeclared U.S.currency from a 33 year-old Mexican citizen driving south into Mexico from Houston, Texas. The drivers were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents for further investigation.

(REUTERS/U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Handout)

Young boys sleep in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours June 18 of two locations in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1.

(REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool)

A cache of weapons seized from a vehicle from an outbound (southbound) examination at Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, is seen in this U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) handout photograph taken February 1, 2011. U.S. customs agents in Texas seized 14 high-powered assault rifles when they searched a car heading into Mexico, and arrested the driver, authorities said on Wednesday. Picture taken February 1.

(REUTERS/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Handout)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialist holds a bottle with the coleoptera beatle that was found as he inspected flowers for foreign pests or diseases in the LAN Cargo center at Miami International Airport February 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida. As Valentine's Day approaches Miami International Airport sees their daily flower shipments quadruple to 22 million flowers per day. During the rest of the year MIA handles more than 90 percent of all flowers imported to the U.S. Most of the flowers come from South American growers.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Detainees are shown in their holding cells where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona, June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since October 1, 2013.

(REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool)

Customs Border Protection (CBP) Supervisor Sam Ko conducts an interview with a passenger arriving from Sierra Leone at O?Hare International Airport's Terminal 5 in Chicago, in this handout picture taken October 16, 2014. Travelers entering the United States whose trips originated in Ebola-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea must fly into one of five airports that have enhanced screening in place, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday. Picture taken October 16, 2014.

(REUTERS/U.S. Customs Border Protection/Melissa Maraj/Handout via Reuters)

Christine Rolin passes her iphone over a scanner as she uses the new mobile app for expedited passport and customer screening being unveiled for international travelers arriving at Miami International Airport on March 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade Aviation Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unveiled a new mobile app for expedited passport and customs screening. The app for iOS and Android devices allows U.S. citizens and some Canadian citizens to enter and submit their passport and customs declaration information using their smartphone or tablet and to help avoid the long waits in the exit lanes.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

An 'air interdiction agent' prepares to fly a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Blackhawk helicopter to MetLife Stadium on January 28, 2014 in Long Island, New York. Helicopters piloted by agents from the CBP's Office of Air and Marine (OAM), are providing air support for Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official inspects avocados entering from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, U.S., on Monday, March 12, 2012. Mexican exports, which account for about 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product, soared 17 percent last year to $350 billion.

(Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official inspects trucks entering from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, U.S., on Monday, March 12, 2012. Mexican exports, which account for about 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product, soared 17 percent last year to $350 billion.

(Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

International air travelers are electronically fingerprinted as they are processed by US Customs and Border Protection agents upon arrival to Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), on December 10, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. December is the busiest time of the year for international travel and the US CBS is trying to educate the public on ways to get through the customs process efficiently.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on a television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours June 18 of two locations in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1.

(REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool)

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"The numbers are not going up, and in fact, the numbers for Mexicans have been going down for almost a decade now," Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew, told the Associated Press in an interview. "And that is counter to a lot of the rhetoric you hear."

While illegal immigration in the U.S. surged for nearly two decades during the 1990s and 2000s, reaching a high of 12.2 million in 2007, it later fell and has since hovered around 11 million, Pew's report shows. And as Mexicans living in the country illegally has dwindled, the number of undocumented immigrants from other parts of the world has grown. Asian immigrants without legal status rose by to 1.5 million in 2015, from from 1.3 million in 2009. Those living in the U.S. illegally from Central America, meanwhile, increased to 1.8 million from 1.6 million during that time, according to the report.

Such findings, however, are unlikely to push the Trump administration away from its plans to ramp up immigration enforcement along the U.S. border with Mexico — at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. In addition to aggressively deporting illegal immigrants, the new president and his cabinet want to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and construct a barrier along the U.S.' southern border.

"This is ground zero – this is the front lines, and this is where we take our stand," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said of the U.S.-Mexico border last week during a stop in southern California.

But Robert Warren, a demographer and senior visiting fellow with the non-partisan Center for Migration Studies, told Vocativ that fewer than half of all undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. now arrive by crossing a border illegally. A recent study co-authored by Warren found that two-thirds of all people who joined the undocumented population in the country in 2014 did so by entering with a legal temporary visa.

"That has huge implications for the administration's proposed wall," Warren said, adding that an increase in illegal immigration from Mexico over the next few years is unlikely. "At some point you have to determine what's actually cost effective."

Philip Wolgin, an immigration expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said that Pew's findings served as more evidence for the Trump administration's misguided approach on immigration policy. "I think this pushes back on the notion that the response we should have right now is to militarize our border and create deportation force," Wolgin told Vocativ. "The reality just doesn't bear that out."

The post Illegal Immigration Dips To Pre-Obama Levels appeared first on Vocativ.

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