Latest estimates from the Pew Research Center indicate that Indians have become the third-largest group of unauthorised immigrants in the United States. Approximately 725,000 Indians are presently residing unlawfully in the US, and experts suggest that the real number may exceed this figure.
Recent statistics from the US Customs and Border Protection highlight an unprecedented surge in the number of undocumented Indian immigrants making the journey across US borders on foot.
In the period from October 2022 to September 2023, a record-breaking 96,917 individuals from India were apprehended for unlawfully entering the United States, marking a substantial fivefold increase from the corresponding period in 2019 to 2020, which recorded only 19,883 cases. Among the nearly 97,000 apprehensions this year, 30,010 occurred at the Canadian border, while 41,770 took place at the Southern border.
The count of undocumented Indians in the US has been on the rise since the reopening of borders post-Covid, with 30,662 individuals apprehended in the 2021 fiscal year and a further 63,927 in the 2022 fiscal year. Law enforcement agencies emphasise that these figures only represent recorded instances, and the actual number is likely considerably higher.
Immigration experts point to various factors contributing to this surge, including the overall increase in global migration since the pandemic, the adoption of more sophisticated and sought-after methods by smugglers to facilitate entry into the United States, and severe visa backlogs.
Muzaffar Chishti, a lawyer and director of the Migration Policy Institute’s New York office, a non-partisan research group, highlighted, “The Southern border has just become a staging ground for migrants from all parts of the world to come to the U.S. most quickly. Why would you wait for a visitor visa in Delhi if you can make it faster to the Southern border?”
Despite the notable increase in the number of Indians entering the US illegally, the overall population of unauthorised immigrants has been on a decline, as per Pew Research findings.
The count of unauthorised immigrants residing in the US in 2021, at 10.5 million, stood below its peak of 12.2 million in 2007. This figure is comparable to the levels observed in 2004 and is lower than the annual figures recorded between 2005 and 2015. Over the period from 2007 to 2021, the unauthorised immigrant population witnessed a decrease of 1.75 million, reflecting a decline of 14%.
In 2021, the United States was home to approximately 10.5 million unauthorised immigrants, constituting around 3% of the total US population and 22% of the foreign-born population. These proportions mark some of the lowest levels since the 1990s.
While Mexico continues to be the predominant country of birth for unauthorised immigrants, the population from Mexico decreased by 900,000 individuals from 2017 to 2021, reaching 4.1 million. The second-largest group hails from El Salvador, with a population of 800,000.
India holds the third position with 725,000 unauthorised immigrants, followed by Guatemala at 700,000 in the fourth spot, and Honduras at fifth with 525,000 citizens living illegally in the US.
It is noteworthy that India, Guatemala, and Honduras have all experienced increases in their unauthorised immigrant populations since 2017.
As per Pew Research, the six states hosting the largest unauthorised immigrant populations in 2021 were California (1.9 million), Texas (1.6 million), Florida (900,000), New York (600,000), New Jersey (450,000), and Illinois (400,000).
Interestingly, the geographical concentration of the unauthorised immigrant population has shown a decline. In 2021, these six states accounted for 56% of the nation’s unauthorised immigrants, marking a substantial decrease from the 80% recorded in 1990.