Perhaps the most emotional issue of this year’s Presidential campaign has been the question of illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico. Like much of the rhetoric during the campaign, the question of illegal immigration has been largely devoid of facts. (For today’s Morning Joe clip, click here.)
Contrary to popular impression, the number of illegal immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has been drifting down since then. The number of Mexicans who are in the United States illegally similarly peaked nearly a decade ago and has fallen more sharply than the number of non-Mexican illegal residents.
The reasons for that are multiple: The recession that accompanied the financial crisis sharply reduced the number of construction jobs available, a particularly large source of jobs for immigrants. Notwithstanding Donald Trump’s rhetoric, stricter enforcement of immigration laws along the border between the United States and Mexico and increased deportation of illegal residents also played a role. Finally, a drop in the size of the young population in Mexico also contributed – the share of Mexicans between 15 to 29 dropped from 29.4% in 1990 to 24.9% in 2014.
While there are no reliable statistics for how many illegal immigrants cross the border with Mexico, experts use the number of apprehensions as a proxy. By that measure, the number of Mexicans apprehended at the border has dropped from more than 1.5 million in 2000 to just about 229,000 in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of non-Mexicans (mostly from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) rose sharply and exceeded the number of Mexicans apprehended in 2014. A big part of this increase in non-Mexican immigration is accounted for by unaccompanied children.
Meanwhile, under President Obama, the number of deportations has risen sharply, to a record of more than 435,000 in 2013. Between 2009 and 2014, more than 2.4 million illegal residents were deported. More than 40% of those deported are convicted criminals, a group that Donald Trump says he wants to target.