The population of undocumented immigrants in the United States leveled off after the Great Recession, but the illegal alien population actually rose in seven states from 2009 to 2012, a new survey reveals.
Nationally, the population of unauthorized immigrants in 2012 was 11.2 million, unchanged from 2009. The number had peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 before declining during the recession.
Five East Coast states showed an increase in illegal immigrants during the three-year period, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center — Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Numbers also increased in Nebraska and Idaho.
New Jersey showed the largest increase in the number of illegal immigrants, from 450,000 in 2009 to 525,000 in 2012, while in Florida the number rose from 875,000 to 925,000.
In six of the seven states where the illegal immigrant population rose, the increase was attributable to non-Mexican immigrants from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, and the rest of the world, while the number of Mexicans declined or did not change. The exception was Nebraska, which had a small increase in unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
The number of illegal immigrants declined in 14 states from 2009 to 2012, including six Western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon), three in the South (Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky), and three in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas), plus New York and Massachusetts.
The largest declines were in California, Arizona, and New York — the illegal-immigrant population fell 50,000 in all three states.
Pew attributes the decline in 13 of those states to a drop in the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico. The exception is Massachusetts, where the decline was due to a decrease in illegal immigrants from other countries.
More than half of the illegal immigrants in the country in 2012, 60 percent, lived in just six states — California, Florida, New York, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois. Six states had fewer than 5,000 illegal immigrants in 2012 — Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Unauthorized immigrants comprised 3.5 percent of the nation's 2012 population, down from 4 percent in 2009, and 26 percent of the nation's foreign-born residents, Pew also found.
Slightly more than 8 million illegal immigrants were working or looking for work in 2012, a sharp increase from 3.6 million in 1995 and 5.6 million in 2000.