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AZ’s undocumented population declines 14% since 2009

By: - August 9, 2021 1:22 pm
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A group of members with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition holds a banner that says, “Stop Deportations. Immigration Reform Now” in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo courtesy of Karina Ruiz

Arizona’s undocumented population has declined by 14% in the last decade, according to new data released by the Center for Migration Studies. 

Overall, Arizona’s undocumented population declined slightly more than the national average decline of 12%. This means that there were 40,510 less undocumented residents living in Arizona in 2019 than there were in 2010, while nationally the undocumented population in the United States declined by 1.4 million.

According to CMS, this trend is primarily due to Mexican nationals who historically have accounted for the largest share of the undocumented population voluntarily leaving the United States. Arizona’s undocumented population from Mexico declined by 23% since 2010. 

This decline in Arizona, and nationally, is unlike what happened in the two decades prior. 

Since 1990, the national undocumented population grew, and Arizona’s generally grew at a faster pace. 

In 2007, the undocumented population in Arizona began declining, and it do so for every year until 2012 when the amount of undocumented residents somewhat grew from 277,000 residents in 2011 to 283,000 in 2012. In 2014, the undocumented population began declining again, with the biggest dip between 2014 and 2015 when foreign-born residents without permission to live or work in the country declined by nearly 21,000 in Arizona. 

Between fiscal years 2007 and 2014, the U.S. registered the highest number of deportations, totaling nearly 3 million people deported (67% of them were from Mexico), according to data obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

During the Trump years between 2017 and 2019, the undocumented population grew in Arizona from 249,400 to 258,600, according to CMS data. 

Besides undocumented Arizona residents born in Mexico, the populations from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam also declined between 2010 and 2018 (by 66%, 88% and 31%, respectively). 

The undocumented population in Arizona from Honduras doubled between 2010 and 2018, and the undocumented community from India living in the state tripled in those years. The undocumented communities from El Salvador and Guatemala living in Arizona each grew by 80%, according to CMS data. 

Poverty, language spoken, employment

Twenty percent of Arizona’s undocumented population lived at or below the poverty level in 2019, a much higher rate than the 13.5% of all Arizonans who live below the poverty line.

A large majority (67%) of the state’s residents with no authorization to live or work in the US arrived in the country before 2009. One in three undocumented people in Arizona have been in the US for more than 20 years, according to CMS data. 

When it comes to speaking English, 44% speak English very well or only speak English, while 17% of the undocumented population in Arizona does not speak the language.

The most common languages spoken at home by Arizona’s undocumented communities are Spanish (80%), English (8%), Hindi (3%), and Dravidian (2%), a family of languages that includes Tamil and are spoken mainly in southern India and parts of Sri Lanka.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.