(United States) – In a new report released today, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) shed light on the long-debated issue of unauthorized immigration to the United States. The report reveals numbers on the number of illegal immigrants based on data from the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS), the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau.
MPI estimates that there were approximately 11.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2021, up from 11.0 million in 2019. This represents a significant annual increase, the largest since 2015.
Interestingly, despite regular media coverage of chaotic arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, these 2021 data do not reflect the record number of border incursions in 2022 nor the high numbers this year.
It is important to note that these estimates reflect the population in mid-2021, a period when global mobility was still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The size of the illegal immigrant population is influenced not only by new arrivals, but also by departures. In 2020, both arrivals and departures appeared to be at lower levels than in previous years.
One of the report’s most notable findings is the changing demographics of illegal immigration. The increase in the number of illegal immigrants between 2019 and 2021 is due in part to an increase in irregular arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border. This increase in border arrivals is due to a mix of nationalities from the Americas and beyond, including Europe.
The report highlights the changing composition of the illegal immigrant population. While Mexico has traditionally been the largest source country for illegal immigrants, accounting for 46 percent of the total in 2021 (down from 63 percent in 2007), there have been declines in the illegal Mexican population, offset by increases in arrivals from other central countries. America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond.
Surprisingly, the number of illegal immigrants has remained relatively stable over the past 15 years, hovering just above or below 11 million. This stability is intriguing given the high number of encounters with illegal immigrants by U.S. authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.
The report offers an explanation for this stability, noting that the number of illegal immigrants has never stagnated. As new immigrants enter the country, others leave, some voluntarily, others through deportations, and still others gain legal status. In particular, the decline in the number of illegal Mexican immigrants has offset the increase in all other groups combined.
The MPI also looks at future trends and predicts further changes in the illegal immigrant population through 2023. Factors such as easing of pandemic-era travel restrictions, global conflicts and climate events are expected to lead to an increase in migration in America and surrounding areas the world. Migration in the Western Hemisphere is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of nationalities, with immigrants coming from countries as far away as Russia, Turkey, Cameroon and India.
One notable trend highlighted in the report is the increasing complexity of the legal status of immigrants in the United States. More people are now in “Twilight” status, which includes Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and asylum seekers. The Biden administration’s expansion of eligibility for TPS and compassionate parole has increased this complexity.
As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of unauthorized immigration to the United States, it is clear that the problem is complex and ever-changing. The MPI report provides valuable information on the size, composition and future trends of the illegal immigrant population, providing a comprehensive picture of an issue that continues to spark debate and discussion across the country.