Antonio Alarcon [a member of Make the Road New York], an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, watched President Obama’s immigration speech on Jan. 29.
WASHINGTON — In my latest Letter From Washington, I write about the “Kumbaya” moment that immigration reform seems to be enjoying — and the certainty that it will not last as the hard work of writing laws gets underway. But who are the illegal immigrants?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that in 2011, the last year for which there are estimates, 6.8 million of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States were from Mexico. The Pew Hispanic Center, which often has the most reliable immigration data, says the number has dropped to 6.1 million, from 7 million five years before.
The combined effects of the economic slowdown in the United States, with fewer jobs, and much more aggressive border-control efforts and stepped-up deportations by the Obama administration explain the decline.
After Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are the countries of origin of the largest numbers of unauthorized immigrants, with more than 1.5 million combined, according to the Homeland Security figures. Next are four Asian countries — China, the Philippines, India and South Korea — which accounted for a little more than 1 million between them.
Not surprisingly, the government estimates that the majority of these immigrants live in California, Texas and Florida. Next, however, are two non-border states: New York and Illinois, with more than 500,000 each.