The number of Mexican immigrants in the US illegally has declined so sharply over the past decade that for the first time, they no longer make up the majority of that category, according to an estimate by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday. There were about 4.9 million Mexicans in the US illegally in 2017, down 2 million from 2007. But the number of Central Americans in the country illegally is increasing—from 1.5 million in 2007 to 1.9 million in 2017, the study found. Pew, like other researchers, cited declining Mexican birth rates as a major reason, the AP reports. In 2015, Pew reported that more Mexicans were leaving the US than arriving, another milestone marking the end of one of the greatest waves of immigration in US history, dating back to 1965 and ending around the time of the Great Recession.
The numbers reflect the conundrum the US is facing at the southern border: The number of Central American migrants crossing the US-Mexico border is rising dramatically, and they are not easily returned over the border—unlike in previous years, when the majority of the border crossers were single men from Mexico. In 2017 there were about 10.5 million immigrants in the country illegally—the lowest number since 2004. The research group found the peak was in 2007 at about 12.2 million. Previously, Mexican nationals made up most of that population. Now, it's a combination, with Central America having the second-largest, and Asia following with 1.4 million. Guatemalans and Hondurans have also overtaken Mexicans as the top nationalities of people arrested on the US border with Mexico for illegally entering the country.
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