STUDY: There Are Now 11.7 Million Undocumented Immigrants

The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States may have risen in 2012 after a decline in recent years, according to new data released on Monday.

The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project estimates that as of March 2012, there are 11.7 million immigrants living in the United States. Because it is impossible to know the actual number of undocumented immigrants, the analysts used the “midpoint of a wide range of possible values” to calculate the population total. And because fluctuations in the population exist from year to year, the 2012 estimated population is statistically no different than the number of undocumented immigrants in 2009, which was 11.3 million immigrants. In 2007, the number of undocumented immigrants hit its highest point of an estimated 12.2 million, and has since leveled out after decades of steady increase:

Immigrants from Mexico comprised 52 percent of the total undocumented population, or 6.05 million individuals. In 2012, an estimated 60 percent of the undocumented population lived in six states — California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, whereas 80 percent of undocumented immigrants lived in these six states in 1990. Only Texas saw an increase in its undocumented population between 2007 to 2011, while the five other states experienced a decrease.

At the same time, Texas state authorities are seeing an increase in migrant border deaths and border apprehensions from immigrants of Central American-origin.


Those attempting to cross the border are increasingly entering through Texas rather than Arizona. Border Patrol agents are finding more bodies along the southern Texas border, with Brooks County officials recovering 76 bodies this year, up 10 to 25 percent from previous years. Border Patrol apprehensions in Rio Grande Valley, Texas have also soared. Ranchers, like Lavoyger Durham, who live on the Texas- Mexico border are addressing migrant death prevention by leaving water jugs out on their property.

But passage of the Senate immigration bill or similar reform legislation could likely bring down the number of migrant deaths in Texas and other border states by apprehending or deterring more unlawful entries, and allowing more lawful entries for seasonal workers and families. The Senate bill would set a goal of apprehending or deterring 90 percent of border crossers.