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India fastest growing source of illegal immigrants to US

world Updated: Sep 22, 2016 22:27 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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The next time Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, rails against illegal immigrants, he could be referring to those from India as well. (AFP)

The next time you hear Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, rail against illegal immigrants, he would most certainly mean Mexicans, as he has, but he could be referring to those from India as well.

India has emerged as the fastest growing source of illegal immigrants to the US, up by between 43% and 37% from 2009 to 2014, according to a new study by Pew, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. It ranked fourth after Mexico, Salvador and Guatemala, and above Honduras in the top five “birth countries” of “unauthorised immigrants”, as the Pew preferred to call them.

No other country came anywhere near India. Mexico, Trump’s pet peeve, was down by half a million over the same period.

The study assigned no reasons for the spike for India, which, it added, was in the top five even in 2005.

The overall number of illegal immigrants in the US — 11.1 million as of 2014 — has stabilised since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, that was taken as the cut-off year for the study, which said the number of unauthorised immigrants rose through the 1990s and early 2000s, peaking at 12.2 million in 2007. It declined in 2008 and 2009.

There has been, in fact, a decline in the number of those coming from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigrants and a constant target of Trump’s, from 6.3 million to 5.8 million. 

The Republican nominee has yet to acknowledge that and never will, having turned it into a key issue of his campaign, promising to build a wall along the Mexican border to stem the flow. This might be because Mexico continues, however, to be the source of the largest chunk of illegal immigrants living in the US — which is different from fresh in-flow — accounting for more than half of them, at 52%.

The number of illegal immigrants from all other parts of the world have risen — driven from Asia and Central America — by 325,000 since 2009, to 5.3 million in 2014.

Asia, including India, China and others, accounted for 1.3 million, or 12% of the total illegal immigrants in 2009; the number rose to 1.4 million, and 13%, in 2014.

That’s a marginal rise. But India’s wasn’t — going from 350,000 in 2009 to 500,000, a jump of 43%; but the study says the effective and real rise was 130,000, about 37%.

To be clear, these are not numbers of fresh annual inflows. According to Pew, most illegal immigrants, generally and not specific to any one country of origin — 64% in 2014 — had been in the US for 10 years or more; only 14% had been here for five years or less 

Though no reasons were cited for that massive jump in number for India, those overstaying their visa may account for it. Indians were among the top 10 population groups of those who were found living here after the expiry of their visas in 2015 — according to the Department of Homeland Security — with 12,885; Canada topped the list with 93,035.

The study also made the point that the top birth countries for illegal immigrants were also among the top sources for legal immigrants — Mexico, for instance, led the table with 134,052 in 2014, followed by India with 77,908, and then China, which held the second position in 2012 and 2013.