Expert Commentary

Unauthorized immigrants: Length of residency and patterns of parenthood

2011 Pew Research Center report explores the demographics of America's unauthorized immigrant population based on 2010 U.S. Census data.

As economic conditions, patterns of law enforcement, and other factors have changed, the population dynamics of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has also shifted. Indeed, though an estimated 150,000 Mexicans migrated illegally to the United States during the period 2007-2009, this represented a 70% decrease from the annual average of 500,000 in the period from 2000-2005.

A 2011 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, “Unauthorized Immigrants: Length of Residency, Patterns of Parenthood,” used data from the March 2010 Current Population Survey, conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, to better understand the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States today.

The findings of the study include:

  • In total, 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants live in the U.S.; this equates to 28% of the country’s foreign-born population and 3.7% of the overall population. Of these, Mexicans constitute 58% — or 6.5 million people.
  • Overall, 35% of unauthorized adult immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years; 28% for 10 to 14 years; 22% for 5 to 9 years; and 15% for fewer than 5 years. Additionally, 39% of Hispanic adults who are not legal residents say they attend religious services weekly.
  • About 4.7 million people (46% of unauthorized adult immigrants today) are parents of children age 17 or under. By contrast, only 38% of legal immigrants and 29% of U.S.-born adults across the population are currently parents of children who are minors.
  • There were almost 390,000 deportations in 2010, twice as many as in 2000. About 73% of deportees in 2010 originally came from Mexico.

A related Pew Center project, the 2010 National Survey of Latinos (NSL), found that 91% of Latinos who are not citizens or legal residents support a path to citizenship for those who meet criteria such as being employed and passing a background check. Of all Latinos, 86% support such a path to citizenship, compared to 72% of all Americans.

Tags: children, Latino, Hispanic