Monday, March 8, 2021

Decline in Undocumented Population

The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) today released new estimates finding that the total US undocumented population was 10.4 million in 2019, a decline of 1.4 million since 2010. Despite an increasing number of arrivals, the undocumented population fell because large numbers of undocumented residents returned to Mexico. 
The estimates are now available in a new paper by CMS Senior Visiting Fellow Robert Warren. The paper also analyzes the period before and after the US Senate passed in June of 2013, S.744 - Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which provided for a large legalization program. It found that undocumented immigration did not significantly increase immediately before or after Senate took up and passed the bill. 
“There’s an unchecked assumption that passing a legalization bill or even discussing it will lead to more undocumented migration,” said Robert Warren. “The last time a bill was considered there was a decrease in departures but almost no change in newly arriving undocumented immigrants.”
The paper also considers trends in the total foreign-born population (authorized and unauthorized migrants). It finds that: 
  • Since 2015, the growth in the foreign-born population has diminished and was nearly zero by 2019.
  • The primary cause of slowed growth in the US immigrant population was immigrants leaving the United States – not new enforcement or restrictions on entry.
“This paper highlights two important demographic shifts, driven primarily by immigrants leaving the United States: the decline in the US undocumented population since 2010 and the slowed growth of the foreign-born population since 2015,” said Donald Kerwin, CMS’s Executive Director. 
The paper is now available at  



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