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Wednesday, January 30, 2013       05:25 WIB
Facts and figures on undocumented immigrants in the US

WASHINGTON, Jan 29, 2013 (AFP)
With immigration reform rising to the top of the US political agenda, here are some facts and figures on undocumented foreigners in the United States:

The Department of Homeland Security estimates there were 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2011, or 3.7 percent of the country's estimated 310 million total population.

This segment of the population peaked in size in 2007 at 11.8 million, up from 8.5 million in 2000.

Nearly 85 percent of those in the United States illegally are from Mexico and Central America.

Fifty-nine percent or 6.8 million are Mexicans, six percent or 660,000 are Salvadorans, five percent or 520,000 are Guatemalans, and three percent or 380,000 are Hondurans.

South Americans account for 800,000 of the population of undocumented immigrants.

About 40 percent of those in the country illegally overstayed their visas, according to official estimates.

Immigrants with legal residency in the United States numbered 13.1 million in 2011, 8.5 million of whom may eventually obtain citizenship, according to the DHS. Every year, nearly a million people obtain legal residency.

Under President Barack Obama, deportations of undocumented immigrants have reached unprecedented levels, rising to 409,849 individuals in the 2012 fiscal year ending last September.

Of those, 55 percent had criminal records, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

At the same time, though, Obama deferred deportations of youths in school or enlisted in the military, measures that could benefit between 1.4 and 1.7 million people, according to demographers.

He also initiated reviews of 300,000 pending deportation cases to give priority to the expulsion of criminals and dismiss lower priority cases.

Also, beginning in March, the government will cut waiting times for undocumented immigrants who are married to a US citizen and with children in the United States.

They have had to stay out of the country for up to a year waiting for an appointment at a US consulate in order to come back into the country legally.

At the same time, the Obama administration has reinforced security on the border with Mexico, increasing the size of the US Border Patrol to 21,000 agents.

They are joined by 300 National Guard troops and backed by improved surveillance technology, including about 10 surveillance drones.

The Border Patrol says arrests of immigrants trying to cross the border have fallen to record lows of less than 400,000 a year, from highs of more than 1.5 million in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The net flow of migrants from Mexico to the United States has fallen to zero and possibly below, due to the US economic crisis which induced immigrants to return home, the Pew Hispanic research center said.

The State Department granted 55,000 temporary visas to agricultural workers in the 2011 fiscal year, but producers criticize the program as cumbersome and not yielding sufficient workers.

There is also a maximum annual quota of 66,000 temporary visas for non-agricultural workers.


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