Study Indicates Sharp Decline in the US Undocumented Population

Feb 22, 2018
9:48 AM

On Thursday morning, Latino Rebels received the following media release from the Center for Migration Studies:

New York, NY  The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) today released estimates of the U.S. undocumented population for 2016 by country of origin and state of residence. Previous CMS reports have documented the long-term change in the U.S. undocumented population from rapid growth in the 1990s, to single-digit rates of growth in 2000 to 2010, to declines in the population from most countries and in most U.S. states since 2010.

Major findings include:

  • The undocumented population fell below 10.8 million in 2016, the lowest level since 2003.
  • The number of U.S. undocumented residents from Mexico fell by almost one million between 2010 and 2016.

  • Average annual undocumented population growth dropped from 15 percent in the 1990s to about 4 percent in 2000 to 2010. Since 2010, the undocumented population from most countries has declined.
  • In the 2010 to 2016 period, five major sending countries had large population declines: Poland (-47 percent); Peru (-40 percent); Ecuador (-31 percent); Colombia (-29 percent); and South Korea (-27 percent).
  • From 2010 to 2016, six of the 10 states with the largest undocumented populations had declines of more than 10 percent: Illinois (-20 percent); North Carolina (-16 percent); California (-13 percent); New York (-13 percent); Arizona (-12 percent); and Georgia (-11 percent). The only large state to gain was Texas (+2 percent).

This shift occurred over a multi-year period that included Congress’ repeated consideration of the DREAM Act and reform bills that included legalization programs. It also occurred during the establishment and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“CMS’s findings provide further evidence of the historic shift in the undocumented population in the United States,” said Donald Kerwin, CMS’s Executive Director. “This shift undercuts the claimed need for massive expenditures on a border-wide wall. It shows that the undocumented population has been decreasing for some time, and that the administration’s narrative of an out-of-control border is exaggerated, if not simply wrong.”

The report, titled “The US Undocumented Population Fell Sharply During the Obama Era: Estimates for 2016,” is authored CMS Senior Fellow Robert Warren. It can be found at