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Most Undocumented Immigrants Have Lived Here for Over a Decade

Posted by Matthew Green | Sep 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

The numbers of undocumented immigrants coming to the United States has plateaued over the past decade.  However, as the growth of the unauthorized immigrant population has leveled out, the length of time these adults have stayed in the U.S. has increased to an average of almost 13 years.

Using U.S. Census data, a new study from the Pew Research Center details the trends in the number of immigrants coming to the U.S. and how long they have remained.  The number of undocumented immigrants has held steady at about 11 million for the last few years, after hitting a peak in 2007.  The slow-down coincides with the recession of 2007.  While the numbers have stalled, those who have remained in the U.S. have stayed much longer.  As of 2013, most undocumented immigrant adults have been in the U.S. for an average of 12.7 year, up from a median of about 8 years in 2003.

The study finds about 4 million of these adults live in the U.S. with their U.S. citizen children.   Immigrant advocates hope that President Obama will consider ways in which to provide reprieve from deportation for immigrants who have been in the U.S. a significant amount of time with long-standing ties to children and other relatives in the country.  This group of people may be just the type seeking relief from possible presidential executive action on immigration reform.

Without taking into account the recent surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America, the study found that there were 775,000 undocumented children from all countries in the U.S. in 2012, down sharply from the peak of 1.6 million in 2005.  However, even with new influx of children and teens from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, their numbers do not appear significant enough to affect the overall stabilizing trend in the country.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California shows a similar trend the length of time immigrants have remained in the country.  Specifically looking at the number of undocumented immigrants in California, they found that half of the people have been living here for at least 10 years.  The report also found that about 75% of the immigrants live in households that include U.S. citizens.

“It's a population deeply embedded in the labor market, neighborhoods and social fabric of the state,” said USC sociology professor Manuel Pastor, who helped author the report.

These recent studies have brought additional focus to the number of long-time resident immigrants, and those who have U.S. citizen children.  In light of the record number of deportations during his administration, President Obama has indicated he would consider changes immigration policy.  Although the President has emphasised that he would prefer Congressional action and comprehensive immigration overhaul, he may resort to executive action.

Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Policy Center echoed the call of immigrant advocates for the president to take action to limit deportations of long term immigrant residents.  “Every one of California's immigrants helps shape our state's economic and civic vitality,” she said.

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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