Felicia Persaud (26512)
Felicia Persaud

As Donald Trumpeto plans a widespread expansion of his first administration’s hard-line immigration policies if elected to a second term in 2024, including rounding up undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and placing them in detention camps to await deportation, the Pew Research Center has released new data about the estimated number of undocumented migrants in the U.S.

According to Pew, there were some 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as of March 2021. This represented about 3% of the total U.S. population and 22% of the foreign-born population—a modest increase over 2019, but nearly identical to 2017.

The new estimates, however, do not reflect the apprehensions and expulsions of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border after March 2021, as migrant encounters at the border have reached historic highs.

The country with the most number of undocumented migrants in the U.S. remains Mexico, with 4.1 million or 39% of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants in 2021. 

After Mexico, the countries of origin with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations in the U.S. in 2021 were El Salvador, 800,000; India, 725,000;  Guatemala, 700,000; and Honduras, 525,000.

Three Central American countries—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—together represented 2.0 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2021, or almost 20% of the total. The unauthorized immigrant population from the Northern Triangle grew by about 250,000 from 2017 and about 700,000 from 2007.

Venezuela, meanwhile, was the country of birth for 190,000 U.S. unauthorized immigrants in 2021. This population saw particularly fast growth, from 130,000 in 2017 and 55,000 in 2007.

Among countries with the largest numbers of U.S. unauthorized immigrants, India, Brazil, Canada, and former Soviet Union countries all experienced growth from 2017 to 2021.

The six states with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations in 2021 were California, 1.9 million; Texas, 1.6 million; Florida, 900,000; New York, 600,000; New Jersey, 450,000; and Illinois, 400,000.

In 2021, these six states were home to 56% of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants, down from 80% in 1990.

Meanwhile, the share of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. workforce was slightly less than 5% in 2021, compared with 3% of the total U.S. population. Overall, about 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants were in the U.S. labor force in 2021. That was up slightly from 2019 but smaller than every year from 2007 through 2015, Pew said. 

Since 2003, unauthorized immigrants have made up 4.4% to 5.4% of all U.S. workers, a relatively narrow range. Fewer than 1% of workers in Maine, Montana, Vermont, and West Virginia in 2021 were unauthorized immigrants.

Nevada, 9%, and Texas, 8%, had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in the workforce.

The news comes as the Mexican government last week responded to the Texas Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 4, which creates a state crime for entering the state illegally from Mexico and allows state and local authorities to deport undocumented immigrants, saying it “categorically rejects” Texas’s latest proposal to arrest and deport immigrants to Mexico.

“The Government of Mexico reiterates its rejection of any measure that contemplates the involuntary return of migrants without respect for due process,” said the statement from Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations.

The statement added that Mexico “recognizes the sovereign right of any country to decide the public policies that should be implemented in its territory,” but Mexico also has a right to defend the estimated 10 million people of Mexican origin in Texas and “establish its own immigration policies in its territory. 

“The Government of Mexico categorically rejects any measure that allows state or local authorities to detain and return nationals or foreigners to Mexican territory,” the statement added.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com, the Black Immigrant Daily News.

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