NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 23, 2005

The population of illegal immigrants grew about 23 percent over the past four years and totals 10.3 million, the Pew Hispanic Center said Monday. The private research group said its study of government data found that much of the increase results from Mexicans who are illegally in the United States.

The prospect of better jobs in the United States than in their native countries remains a powerful lure for many immigrants, according to center Director Roberto Suro.

Other major findings of the researchers:

  • Following several years of steady growth, the number of undocumented residents reached an estimated 10.3 million in March 2004 with undocumented Mexicans numbering 5.9 million or 57 percent of the total.
  • As of March 2005, the undocumented population has reached nearly 11 million including more than 6 million Mexicans, assuming the same rate of growth as in recent years.
  • About 80 to 85 percent of the migration from Mexico in recent years has been undocumented.

Since the mid-1990s, the most rapid growth in the number of undocumented migrants has been in states that previously had relatively small foreign-born populations. As a result, Arizona and North Carolina are now among the states with the largest numbers of undocumented migrants.

  • Although most undocumented migrants are young adults, there is also a sizeable childhood population; about one-sixth of the population -- some 1.7 million people -- is under 18 years of the age.
  • The foreign-born population, regardless of legal status, was 35.7 million last year; those of Mexican descent were the largest group, more than 11 million, or 32 percent.

Source: Jeffrey S. Passel, "Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population," Pew Hispanic Center, March 21, 2005; and "Illegal-immigrant Numbers Increase," USA Today, March 22, 2005.

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