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7.25 Lakhs in 4 Years: Indians Form 3rd Highest Illegal Immigrant Populous in US

The study was conducted by the Pew Research Centre, a Washington DC-based think-tank.

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There are about 725,000 Indian illegal immigrants in the US, making it the third largest population of unauthorised immigrants, according to new Pew Research Centre estimates.

The study, conducted by the Washington-based think-tank, shows that the United States witnessed the largest influx of illegal migrants from neighbouring Mexico (6.4 million), followed by El Salvador (8 lakh) and India during 2017-2021.

The total unauthorised immigrant population in the United States reached 10.5 million in 2021, accounting for 3% of the total US population and 22% of the foreign-born population. The 10.5 million immigrant population in 2021 remained below the peak of 12.2 million in 2007, the study stated.

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US Customs and Border Protection (USBP) Report

As per the data released by the US Customs and Border Protection, the number of undocumented Indian immigrants crossing US borders has dramatically spiked.

From October 2022 to September 2023, there were 96,917 Indians encountered - apprehended, expelled or denied entry - having entered the US without papers. This marked a fivefold increase as compared to the same period from 2019 to 2020, when there were just 19,883.

The numbers have emerged despite the tragic loss of lives in recent years during such intrusions, particularly through hazardous routes. Of the 96,917 Indians, 30,010 were caught at the Canadian border and 41,770 at the frontier with Mexico.

Law enforcement agencies pointed out that these figures represent only recorded cases, and the actual number is likely to be significantly higher.

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Why Are Indians Immigrating to The US Illegally?

Last year on 19 January, when a family of four from Gujarat froze to death while entering the US from Canada illegally, the conversation around the dangerous journeys that refugees take to pursue a better life reignited.

Several factors can be attributed to this increase, including an overall growth in global migration since the pandemic, oppression of minority communities in India, smugglers’ use of increasingly sophisticated and in-demand methods of getting people to America, and extreme visa backlogs.

The number of undocumented Indians in the US has been climbing since borders opened post Covid, with 30,662 encountered in the 2021 fiscal year and 63,927 in the 2022 fiscal year.

Influx From Every Region of The World

Almost every region in the world had a notable increase in the number of unauthorised immigrants in the US from 2007 to 2021, with the largest increase from Central America (240,000) and South and East Asia (180,000). Other countries contributing illegal migrants to the US include Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, former Soviet Union countries, China, and the Dominican Republic, among others.

Spike in Lawful Immigration

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Meanwhile, the lawful immigrant population grew by more than 8 million, a 29% increase, and the number of naturalised US citizens grew by 49%. In 2021, naturalised citizens accounted for about half (49%) of all immigrants in the country, as per the Pew study.

Overall US Illegal Immigrant Population Decreasing

As of 2021, the nation’s 10.5 million unauthorised immigrants represented about 3% of the total US population and 22% of the foreign-born population. These shares were among the lowest since the 1990s. Unauthorised immigrants make up at least 4.6 per cent of the US workforce in 2021.

Though the number of Indians illegally entering the US has seen a spike, the overall illegal immigrant population has been declining, according to Pew.

While the second largest source of unauthorised immigrants to the US is Mexico, it has seen a decline in the number from 2017. India, Guatemala and Honduras on the other hand have all seen increases since 2017.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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