Are More Undocumented Immigrants Living in the US Now? Here's What the Numbers Say

by Karen Aho

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, about 11.0 million undocumented immigrants were living in the United States in 2022—a 4.6% increase from 2020. This is still a 5.2% drop from the recent high of 11.6 million in 2010.

The report from the Office of Homeland Security Statistics further found a steady and significant decline in the number of undocumented immigrants originating from Mexico since 2010, as well as an increase in the average age of all undocumented immigrants. Crucially, nearly 80% of undocumented immigrants in 2022 had been in the country for more than a decade, emphasizing the lack of legal pathways for the long-term undocumented population.

The authors used data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) to find the number of all foreign-born residents as of January 1 in a given year. The agency does not have estimates for 2021 due to problems collecting accurate census data in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, the authors subtracted those immigrants with legal residency. For the report, immigrants who were protected from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or other forms of prosecutorial discretion were not considered legal residents and were counted as undocumented immigrants. The report also does not take into account new arrivals in 2023 and 2024.

The highest percentage of undocumented immigrants arrived between 2000 and 2009, followed closely by the previous decade. For example, of the 11.0 undocumented immigrants in the United States on Jan. 1, 2022, 3.9 million arrived in the 2000s, 3.4 million arrived in the 1990s, and 2.3 million arrived in 2010 or later. The number of recent arrivals—those who arrived in the United States since 2010—dropped by 280,000 between 2018 to 2020, then rose by 630,000 from 2020 to 2022.

By taking a step back, these numbers illustrate a clear picture—most undocumented immigrants have been living in the United States for decades. The increase in the average age of undocumented immigrants likewise shows that many are older adults who have become integral parts of their communities.

While the majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States are still from Mexico, their numbers have continued to decline, from 6.83 million in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2018 and 4.8 million in 2022—a nearly 30% drop since 2010 and an average decline of 180,000 people per year from 2018 to 2022.

Top Countries of Birth for Undocumented Immigrants

The undocumented immigrant populations from India and China also saw dramatic declines between 2018 and 2022. The number of undocumented immigrants from India fell by 54%, from 480,000 people in 2018 to 220,000 in 2022, while those from China fell by 47%, from 390,000 to 210,000.

Meanwhile, the numbers of undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and Honduras increased by 21% and 24%, respectively, mostly between January 2019 and January 2020. The number from El Salvador dipped slightly.

These fluctuating numbers reflect overall changes in migration patterns, as worsening conditions, economic problems, and climate change impact who makes the journey to the United States. People in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been most impacted by these issues, while Mexico has stabilized by comparison.

In keeping with past trends, nearly half (48%) of the undocumented immigrant population in 2022 resided in California (2.6 million), Texas (2.1 million), or Florida (590,000). And nearly three-quarters (72%) of all undocumented immigrants resided in just ten states: in addition to the above three, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, and Arizona.

In only three of these 10 states—Texas, New Jersey, and Washington—did the population of undocumented immigrants increase between 2018 and 2022. In the other seven, the population held steady or declined. In New York, for example, the number of undocumented immigrants dropped by 31.7%, from 600,000 in 2018 to 410,000 in 2022, while in Florida the number decreased by 13.2%, from 680,000 to 590,000.

Top States of Residence for Undocumented Immigrants

Long-term trends also show that the undocumented immigrant population is getting older. Between 2015 and 2022, the number of undocumented immigrants aged 18 to 34 decreased by 1.8 million, or 49%, while the number of those aged 45 and above increased by 1.3 million, or 61%.

This demographic change calls for attention from policymakers and community organizers to consider how an aging undocumented population will lead to increasing inequalities in access to healthcare, health conditions, and socioeconomic status in general.

This post originally appeared on Immigration Impact Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Karen Aho

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.