Study: Illegal Immigration May Be on the Rise Again

The number of unauthorized migrants in the United States is still not at pre-recession levels

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LM Otero / AP

Mexican immigrant Yesenia Pereyda Martinez is escorted across the bridge to Mexico by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent during her deportation in Brownsville, Texas on May 25, 2010.

The several-year decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants estimated to be living in the United States has flattened out and may be reversing, according to a new report from the PEW Research Center’s Hispanic Trends project.

As of March 2012, 11.7 million people were thought to be living without legal authorization in the United States, according to the Pew study based on U.S. government data. That figure is lower than the estimated 12.2 million level at which the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. peaked in 2007, after decades of trending upward. But it is greater than the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in the U.S. in 2009.

The 2012 figure is not statistically different from the 2009 estimate, according to Pew, indicating that the recent trend of decreasing illegal immigration has flattened out and may in fact be increasing once again.

Among the six states with the most unauthorized immigrants—California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas—only Texas saw a continued increase in its unauthorized immigrant population during the recession.

[The Pew Research Center]