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Top 10 Facts: Immigration Trends

  1. Current rhetoric around immigration would have the public believe that unauthorized immigration is continuing in large numbers and unabated, but there has not been major growth in the unauthorized population for many years. There were approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States in 2018—down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007—and has remained stable as of 2020.

  2. The immigration debate is often seen as synonymous with Mexico given the discourse around U.S-Mexico border and the historically high rates of Mexican immigration to the U.S. But the Mexican share of the foreign-born population has not seen much growth in two decades. The Mexican share of the foreign-born population in the United States has declined by almost 7% between 2010 and 2019.

  3. The share of unauthorized adults who have been here for less than five years is 21%. Nearly 60% of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the United States for at least 10 years. 14% have been in the United States at least 20 years.

  4. Mexico, once the dominant source of immigration to the United States, has been overtaken by countries in Asia. The top country of origin for new immigrations in 2018 was China, followed by India.

  5. Mexico as a source of undocumented migration has declined as the Northern Triangle countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—grow in importance. In fact, the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined from 6.9 million from 2007 to 4.9 million in 2017.

  6. Illegal-border crossings have fallen substantially since the 1990s. Visa overstays now outnumber unlawful border crossings as the main source of unauthorized immigration to the United States.

  7. Border apprehensions in fiscal year 2019 were around 900,000, highest since 2012, and included substantial numbers of Central American migrants as well as an increase in Mexican adults. However, border apprehensions still remain low compared to the more than 1 million apprehensions that occurred annually during 1980, 1990s, and 2000s. The highest recorded border apprehensions were in FY2000 with around 1.6 million people apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  8. The immigrant population is far better educated than in the past, and the college-educated immigrant population has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades. As of 2018, 32% of all immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree. the college educated immigrant population in the United States increased by 87% between 1990-2000, 57% between 2000-2010, and 38% between 2010-2018.

  9. More immigrants are arriving with high school diplomas and college degrees, enabling them to fill vital jobs in the U.S. economy. Between 2015 and 2020, 47% of all new immigrants had a college degree.

  10. As a growing percentage of the U.S. workforce, immigrant participation in our economy continues to increase, especially as the native-born work force is aging and shrinking. 17.4% of the U.S. labor force in 2020 were foreign-born workers, up from 15.8% in 2010 and 13.3% in 2000.

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