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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Pew Research reveals 50% decrease in unauthorized Koreans in a decade

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Unauthorized immigrant population by region and selected country of birth. [Source: Pew Research]

The number of foreign immigrants staying in the U.S. illegally for a chance at permanent residency is on the rise again. Still, the number of unauthorized Korean immigrants continued to decline over the years.

According to statistics on unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. released by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., on November 15, the Korean unauthorized immigrant population was estimated at 100,000 in 2021.

This represents a 16.7% decrease from 2019, when the number was 120,000, and a 34% decrease from 2017, when it stood at 150,000, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Notably, the number of undocumented Koreans has halved since 2010, when it reached 200,000.

The decline in unauthorized immigrants was not limited to Koreans but was also significant among Mexicans.

At 4.05 million, Mexico remains the largest country of origin in the U.S., but on a year-over-year basis, the undocumented population is down 300,000 (7%) from 4.35 million in 2019, and a whopping 900,000 from 4.95 million in 2017.

The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico peaked at 6.95 million in 2007 and has been declining since Congress failed to pass an immigration reform bill that would have given undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

“As the path to legal status became increasingly difficult due to reduced benefits and increased crackdowns, many undocumented immigrants returned to their home countries in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at Pew Research Center. Mexico shares a border with the United States, making it easier for them to travel.

While the number of unauthorized immigrants from Korea and Mexico declined, the total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was 10.5 million, an increase of 300,000 from 10.2 million in 2019.

The state with the largest undocumented population was California (1.85 million). Although it is often the most populous state for undocumented people, it is down 50,000 from 1.9 million in 2019 and down 150,000 from 2 million in 2017.

California was followed by Texas (1.6 million) and Florida (900,000) as the states with the most undocumented residents. Florida, in particular, saw an increase of 125,000. Texas and New Jersey also grew by 50,000 to 1.6 million and 450,000, respectively.

By country of origin, El Salvador, the second largest undocumented population in the U.S., remained at 800,000, the same as two years ago, but India added 125,000, or 21%, to reach 775,000. The Dominican Republic also increased by 40,000 to 230,000, while Guatemala, Honduras, and Canada added 25,000 and 20,000, respectively.

BY NICOLE CHANG, JUNHAN PARK    [chang.nicole@koreadaily.com]