Politicians like Donald Trump, who claim illegal immigration in the United States is on the rise, have got it backwards, according to a new report by the Center for Migration Studies released on Wednesday.
The New York-based think tank finds that the illegal-immigrant population in the country is in a 10-year decline, and dropped to 10.9 million in 2014. Fewer than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States would mean the population is at its lowest level since 2003.
“The facts of the report tell a different story than what you might hear on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress, where many send a message that we’re being overrun by undocumented immigrants,” said Kevin Appleby, the Center’s senior director of international migration policy, during a call with the press.
The lead author of the study, Robert Warren, a prominent demographer and former director of statistics at the US Immigration and Naturalization Services, says that the pervasive understanding that illegal immigration is increasing is “mistaken.”
In fact, the report finds that the number of Mexican immigrants, in particular, has dropped by 9 percent since 2010. Furthermore, the study indicates that the decline in the illegal-immigrant population in the country has been driven in part by the large number of Mexican migrants returning to Mexico, even as immigration from Central America has increased.
Manuel Pastor, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, tells the LA Times that the decline in numbers can be attributed to a slowing US economy. Pastor calls Trump’s rhetoric regarding illegal immigration “detached from reality,” and says it is a product of presidential primary politics.
“This is a very racialized debate,” he said, adding that Trump is playing to Americans’ “growing demographic anxieties” regarding the nation’s changing racial and ethnic makeup through immigration.