Decline in Unauthorized Immigrants from China


According to a new study by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the number of unauthorized residents from China living in the U.S. has decreased from 2000 to 2009, at the same time that the overall population of unauthorized residents has increased.

Some 62 percent of unauthorized residents are from Mexico. Between 2000 and 2009, the total population of unauthorized residents grew by 27 percent.

At the same time, the unauthorized population from China was 190,000 in 2000, grew to 230,000 in 2005, grew again to 290,000 in 2007, and then fell precipitously to 120,000 in 2009.

The term “unauthorized resident” refers to persons living in the U.S. illegally. Most either entered the U.S. without inspection or were admitted temporarily and stayed past the date they were required to leave.

The precipitous fall in Chinese unauthorized residents is particularly curious given that the number of Chinese traveling to the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas actually increased from 2007 to 2009.

The USCIS report doesn’t attempt to explain the precipitous drop of Chinese unauthorized residents.   It seems likely that one factor is that this population was hit hard by the economic crisis in the U.S. and was drawn back to the relatively stable economy in China. Other possible factors could include: (a) better screening of nonimmigrant visa applicants by the U.S. Consulates in China to deny visas to intending immigrants; (b) a greater number of arrests and deportations of Chinese by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;  and/or (c) more open doors for Chinese immigrants in other countries. This is just speculation, and it would be interesting to see further research on this.

See Michael Hoefer, et al, Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing int the United States: January 2009 (USCIS Office of Immigration Statistics Jan. 2010),

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