Build the wall! The cries went out at campaign rallies all throughout the Rust Belt and beyond. It was a key piece of the Trump presidential platform. The momentum carried Donald Trump through to an unlikely victory in the 2016 presidential election. This will be the first in a multi-part series on illegal immigration in the United States and the impact it has.

By the Numbers

Currently, the number of illegal immigrants estimated to live in the United States is around 11.4 million according to the Pew Research Center and the Department of Homeland Security. Donald Trump has claimed that the number is much higher, when he claimed that the number is over 30 million in a campaign speech.

When asked to back that number up, Trump said, “I am hearing it from other people, and I have seen it written in various newspapers. The truth is the government has no idea how many illegals are here.”

The numbers that the Pew Research Center and DHS came up with are rooted in research from the Census Bureau. The number Donald Trump cited seems rooted in alternative media articles.

Given the nature of the disputed claims, the widely held estimate of 11.4 million people will be used for this assessment.

The first, and possibly most salient point of this examination is the veracity of the flood of unauthorized immigrants that comes to mind when listening to Trump or the GOP speak on the subject. The statistics again differ with the narrative they offer.


Since hitting a peak of 12.2 million in 2007, there has been a steady decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants coming over and the overall number has come down by nearly a million people since. Mexican immigrants account for around 52% of the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States, and they account for almost all of the decline in unauthorized population. There are a few reasons that the decline has happened.

President Obama actually had an aggressive deportation plan, often taking heat for it from Latino voter’s groups. Critics will cite a change in classification of people turned away at the border. Either way the number of deportations is classified, the fact still remains that the number has declined. This decline, when taken into consideration with the historic low number of apprehensions at the border in 2015, shows a clear decline in the inflow of immigrants. The approximately 188,000 apprehensions is the lowest number since 1969. This record low number of apprehensions is indicative of lower influx, which is confirmed by the fact that the number of border patrol agents has doubled.

Another point of contention is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly known as DACA, which grants work permits and other rights to roughly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants that arrived here during their early childhood, with about twice as many currently eligible. These children are a part of the rising number of unauthorized immigrants who have lived here for longer than ten years.

The last pertinent point is that a very large amount of unauthorized residents in this country enter legally and overstay their visas. So, that wall people were screaming about, probably won’t do as much as they hope.

When the numbers are taken into view, there is no onslaught of people crossing the border. The number of unauthorized residents is lower than many would have you believe and shrinking.