Arizona sees large drop in undocumented population

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More than a decade ago, Arizona was the flashpoint over illegal immigration in the U.S. as the number of apprehensions along the state’s border with Mexico soared to historic numbers. The state had a robust undocumented immigrant population at the time, but it has since decreased significantly.

The number since has dropped by almost 230,000, according to the most recent estimates available from 2018. It’s the largest drop among the states with the largest undocumented population. One reason for the drop: Arizona’s political landscape in the 2000s, specifically SB 1070 (known as the “show me your papers” law) and the raids by then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

Mario Montoya, research analyst for Aliento Arizona, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the numbers.

Montoya said that the Department of Homeland Security reported that from 2008 to 2018, there was a large decrease in undocumented immigrants living in Arizona.

“It’s a complicated topic,” Montoya said. “It’s multi-faceted. Several factors, which are economical, political, social and demographic, as well as individual factors contribute to migration patterns.”

According to Montoya, about 80% of the undocumented individuals living in Arizona originate from Mexico. However, there has been a decrease in Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.

“Around 2017, that was the first time that we finally saw that Mexican immigrants did not account for the majority population of undocumented immigrants living here,” Montoya said.

Mario Montoya, Research Analyst, Aliento Arizona

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