New Migration Study Says US Undocumented Population Declined by 1.2 Million Over 8-Year Period

Feb 26, 2020
3:18 PM

In this July 10, 2019 image, Juan Carlos Perla, passes a sign leading to the border as he travels with his family from their home in Tijuana, Mexico, for an asylum hearing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

A Wednesday media release by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) said the U.S. undocumented population was at was 10.6 million in 2018, a decline of 1.2 million since 2010.

“Despite an increasing number of arrivals, the undocumented population fell because large numbers of undocumented residents returned to Mexico,” the release noted.

The population estimate was part of a new study by CMS Senior Visiting Fellow Robert Warren. Warren’s paper “strongly suggests that improving conditions in home countries increases return migration of undocumented residents,” the release said.

“There’s a widespread assumption that everyone wants to come to the United States and no one ever leaves, but that’s never been true,” said Robert Warren. “There has always been a return flow, but until recently we weren’t able to measure it well in the undocumented population.”

Besides the decrease for those of Mexican decsent, the paper also noted the following about the 2010-2018 time period:

  • The undocumented population from Poland dropped from 93,000 to 39,000.
  • The undocumented population from Venezuela increased from 65,000 to 172,000.

The paper noted that the increase from Venezuella happened after 2014, “during a period of intense socioeconomic and political upheaval.” In addition, the release said that since 2010, “about two thirds of new arrivals overstayed visas and one third entered illegally across a border.”

“The paper highlights two, multi-year trends, the continued decrease in the U.S. undocumented population, driven by more Mexican nationals leaving than joining the U.S. undocumented population, and the fact that many more undocumented residents have overstayed their visas in recent years than have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border,” Donald Kerwin, CMS’s Executive Director, said. “It also suggests the continued salience of the conditions in sending states in determining changes in the composition of the U.S. undocumented population.”

The full study is below: