Less and less immigrants live in the U.S. illegally. The undocumented population dropped to 10.9 million people in 2014, a low since 2003, according to a study published in the Journal on Migration and Human Society in Jan. The report comes during a contentious U.S. presidential election in which the question of what to do with the clandestine immigrant population has sparked unprecedented passion among activists and politicians alike. Its counter-intuitive, but the uptick in rhetoric has followed a downturn in the immigrant population, which dropped 7 percent between 2010 and 2014.

The report is in line with findings in Pew and other studies but offers a bit of an update as well as a state-by-state breakdown of the most recent numbers. It shows that the decline in migrants has been felt unevenly across the U.S., particularly among states with the largest immigrant populations. For example, the undocumented population went down seven percent (-813,000 people) in California but went up one percent in Texas (+19,000 people).

Why the decline? The report doesn’t have any conclusions, saying that “Diverse commentators will speculate on why these trends have occurred.” Author Robert Warren of the Center for Migration Studies does offer some tools for that speculation. For example, he points to the number of legal immigrants has increased, especially naturalized U.S. citizens. Other reasons often cited include family reunification and the slow rebound of the U.S. job market after 2008, particularly in construction industry. As more migrants find a pathway to legal status or decide to return, the undocumented population may continue to diminish.



We wouldn’t expect any slump in the immigration rhetoric though. Even if voters become aware of the shrinking rates of illegal immigration population, there are still plenty of legal immigration categories to argue about.