Illegal immigrant numbers in US hit lowest level in a decade under Barack Obama, finds study

Donald Trump focused on constant flow of migrants from the beginning of his campaign

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 26 April 2017 09:49 BST
Many Americans wrongly believe undocumented immigrants do not have constitutional rights
Many Americans wrongly believe undocumented immigrants do not have constitutional rights (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The number of illegal immigrants living in the US hit its lowest level in a decade under President Barack Obama's administration, a study suggests.

There were 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US in 2015 according to the Pew Research Centre, the lowest number since 2005.

That included people who crossed the border illegally and those who overstayed their legal visas, and was based on data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The Centre also released a preliminary estimate of 11.3 million illegal immigrants in 2016, based on a different data source with a smaller sample size.

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Donald Trump focused on the constant flow of migrants from Mexico from the beginning of his campaign, denouncing border crossers as "criminals" and "racists".

Mexicans have long been the largest group among undocumented immigrants, the Centre noted, but their numbers have declined since peaking at 6.9 million in 2007.

In 2015, the Centre's estimate said the number declined to 5.6, making up 51 per cent of the total undocumented immigrant population.

The preliminary estimates are based on census data from March 2016, in the last year of Mr Obama's second term, meaning they do not account for any impact of Mr Trump's policy changes.

A huge drop in the number of people arrested crossing the Mexico border into the US has been recorded since Mr Trump took office, with his administration seeking to take credit for the decline.

Fewer than 12,500 were caught at the southern border in March, the lowest monthly figure in at least 17 years and the second month in a row border arrests dropped sharply.

The White House issued a statement to say Mr Trump's "commitment to securing our border and supporting law enforcement is already showing results."

However, those working in shelters and experts on migration said it will take several more months to judge whether any drop-off is long lasting, and that the numbers could surge again as quickly as they have fallen.

Some thought the real "Trump effect" pushed fearful people to move up their journeys and get to the US before Mr Trump took office.

Border arrests in October, November and December increased by about a third compared to the same period in 2015, before falling this year.

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