The Undocumented Population Has Fallen Sharply for Reasons That Have Nothing to Do With Trump

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If you watch President Donald Trump speak, he’ll have you believing tons of immigrants keep on crossing the border illegally. But a new report released on Thursday has found that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is at the lowest level since 2003—and that this drop happened before Trump even came on the scene.

The consensus is the undocumented population in the U.S. rose through the 1990s and early 2000s, peaking around 12 million in the late 2000s.

But the latest numbers show that in 2016—Barack Obama’s last year in office— the undocumented population fell below 10.8 million, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by The Center for Migration Studies, a think tank that has advocated legalizing a large percentage of the undocumented population.


The 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. estimate would put the unauthorized population in the U.S. at the lowest level since 2003. The drop in undocumented immigrants during the Obama era also debunks claims by Republicans who argued that “sanctuary cities” and programs like DACA would just attract more undocumented immigrants to the U.S.

Heavy decreases in the number of immigrants from Mexico is a large reason for the decline. The number of immigrants from Mexico fell by almost one million between 2010 and 2016, according to the report.


Donald Kerwin, the director of The Center for Migration Studies, told Splinter that there could be many other explanations. Among them: people died; fewer children born in Mexico, leading to a decline in the numbers of working-age people who would have emigrated; and, of course, Obama’s deportation machine (he deported a record 5.3 million people during his eight years in office).