Undocumented Immigrant Population Declines, Falls Below 11 Million

The undocumented immigrant population in the United States has declined steadily over the last five years, according to data collected by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. The study, which was published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, suggests the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States fell below 11 million in 2014. Although the number still seems daunting, it has not been this low since 2003.

The immigration debate has intensified over the last 12 months, as the 2016 presidential candidates have strongly conflicting views about the subject in general. However, undocumented immigration, in particular, remains one of the most hotly debated points.

In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions regarding immigration and how the United States will deal with undocumented immigrants.

As discussed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the actions were designed “to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons, not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.”

Although the actions would help millions of undocumented immigrants work toward legal status, they can not be implemented until they are approved by the Supreme Court. CNN reports the Supreme Court is expected to make their decision before the end of the current term.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who are the democratic front-runners for the 2016 presidential election, have expressed support for President Obama’s executive actions.

On her official campaign website, Clinton strongly supports “comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.” Bernie Sanders, who is “the son of an immigrant,” expressed a similar stance, which includes a comprehensive plan for “a fair and humane immigration policy.”

In stark contrast, Donald Trump, who is the Republican front-runner for the 2016 presidential election, is calling for strict measures to decrease the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border and to deport those who are already in the United States.

Like others who oppose a pathway to legal status, Trump highlights the fact that a majority of the undocumented immigrant population either entered the United States illegally or overstayed on a valid visa. Therefore, they are criminals who should be dealt with as such.

In addition to breaking the law, undocumented immigrants are often blamed for causing an economic strain on the American taxpayers.

On his official campaign website, Trump contends “U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs” related to undocumented immigrants. He also argues that “the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.2 billion in 2011.”

Although these are commonly held beliefs, CNN Money contends “some of the arguments against immigration are based on misguided information.”

According to the November 2014 article, the undocumented immigrant population’s impact on the American people and the economy are often exaggerated.

Contrary to popular belief, between 50 and 75 percent of undocumented immigrants do pay do pay taxes. SSA Chief Actuary Stephen Goss also confirmed they pay an estimated $15 billion in Social Security each year.

The Congressional Budget Office has also suggested a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants “would increase federal revenues by $48 billion… would produce a surplus of $25 billion for government coffers.”

Although the numbers are not as dire as many Americans believe, the Heritage Foundation estimates the average undocumented household coast taxpayers over $14,000 per year. The CBO also admits a pathway to legal status could cause “an estimated $23 billion in increased costs from the use of public services.”

Indeed, these are serious issues that need to be addressed. However, the Center for Migration Studies report suggests America’s undocumented immigrant population is in a steady decline. In fact, the Center concluded that the number of legal immigrants is increasing more than the number of those who are undocumented.

[Image via Melis’s/Shutterstock]

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