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U.S. Unauthorized Populations from Asia, Central America and Africa Have Grown the Fastest Since 2000, New MPI Report Finds

Press Release
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

U.S. Unauthorized Populations from Asia, Central America and Africa Have Grown the Fastest Since 2000, New MPI Report Finds

Guatemalans, Indians and Koreans among Top 5 Fastest-Growing Populations since 2000

WASHINGTON – While Mexicans still represent the majority of unauthorized immigrants in the United States, the fastest rates of growth since 2000 have occurred in unauthorized populations from Asia, Central America and Africa, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reported today.

A new MPI report, An Analysis of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States by Country and Region of Birth, offers a detailed profile of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants by country and region of origin, providing estimates at state and county levels for top destinations.

Mexicans and Central Americans, who account for 37 percent of the overall foreign-born population of 40.3 million in 2013, represent 71 percent of unauthorized immigrants. Mexico alone represents 56 percent of the unauthorized population, or 6 million people, with no other country accounting for even 1 million unauthorized immigrants. Countries in Asia represent the next largest share, with 15 percent (1.5 million people).

The report, which examines how origins and growth rates have changed over time, finds that the unauthorized populations with the fastest growth rates between 2000 and 2013 came from Asia (202 percent increase), Central America (194 percent) and Africa (161 percent). The total unauthorized population, which increased by 3.5 million during the 1990s and by 4 million between 2000-2013, peaked in 2007, and has declined by about 1 million since then.

Growth Rate for Unauthorized Populations by Region of Origin, 1990-2000 & 2000-2013 (%)

Source: MPI analysis of Census Bureau 2009-13 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data by Colin Hammar and James Bachmeier of Temple University and Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University; and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Estimates of the Unauthorized Population Residing in the United States (Washington, DC: INS, 2003).

Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Indian, Korean and Nicaraguan unauthorized populations experienced the fastest rates of growth between 2000 – 2013, rising anywhere from 224 to 600 percent. India is the country of origin with the greatest growth rate in the unauthorized population since 1990, with a 914 percent increase, although Mexicans had the largest growth in absolute numbers (rising more than 4 million). (See Table 1 in report).

The report examines settlement patterns by origin, which have changed considerably in recent years as unauthorized immigrants—like the broader foreign-born population—have fanned out beyond traditional destinations such as California, Texas and New York. Guatemalan and Salvadoran unauthorized immigrants, for instance, have a substantial presence in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, as do African immigrants. Caribbean unauthorized immigrants are largely concentrated in the New York City metro area and Florida.

The authors also examine the differing application rates by national origin for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization. Application rates are highest for Mexicans, Salvadorans and Hondurans (above 80 percent of those MPI estimates are immediately eligible to apply), and lowest among Asian immigrants, with rates in the 20 percent range for those from India, Korea and the Philippines—and even lower for China. (See Table 2 in report.)

The estimates derive from an innovative MPI methodology to estimate the size and characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2009-2013 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2008 Survey of Income Program Participation (SIPP).

MPI today also launched an accompanying interactive map that allows users to find top states and counties of settlement for unauthorized immigrant populations by country or region of origin, and also to determine the share potentially eligible for deferred action. The data tool spans six regions and 23 countries, from Argentina and the Dominican Republic to India and Vietnam. The map is the latest in a series of MPI tools that provide population estimates and socio-demographic information about the U.S. unauthorized population.  Visit the MPI Data Hub for the complete lineup of data tools.

The report can be read at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/analysis-unauthorized-immigrants-united-states-country-and-region-birth.

The interactive map is here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/unauthorized-immigrant-populations-country-and-region-top-state-and-county.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more, visit www.migrationpolicy.org.