People march through downtown Los Angeles supporting immigrant rights during a May Day march. A Pew Research Center analysis shows that the undocumented population in the United States has stopped growing for the first time in decades.National Journal

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

Despite political rhetoric about America's open borders, the undocumented population in the United States has actually stopped growing.

For the first time in decades, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has leveled off, according to a preliminary estimates by the Pew Research Center. This comes after the numbers quadrupled between 1990 and 2007. During that time, the number of people who arrived in the country without permission — or who overstayed their visas — skyrocketed from 3.5 million to 12.2 million.

The Great Recession started to change that. So did the sharp increase in deportations during the Obama administration. The undocumented population has remained about the same over the last seven years, decreasing slightly to 11.3 million people in 2014, according to the Pew analysis, which is based on government data.

This trend points to a larger shift in the pattern of undocumented immigrants, says Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew Research Center. Though Mexicans still make up the largest group of undocumented immigrants, their numbers are shrinking overall.

"Enforcement at the border and the interior seems to be working as a deterrent," he says. "It's gotten quite a lot more difficult to sneak in [from Mexico], and it's also more expensive to hire a smuggler."

The leveling off doesn't mean people have stopped crossing the border or overstaying their visas. According to Pew, it just means that a relatively equal number of people are being deported, leaving voluntarily or converting to legal status.

The analysis also shows that the estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country are more likely to have families here and to be living here for more than 10 years.

These numbers include people who have been granted temporary deportation relief under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The analysis also shows that the estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country are more likely to have families here and to be living here for more than 10 years.

"It's no longer the stereotype of the single guy who just came over," says Passel.

The research center's analysis is based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and American Community Survey. The center will release more detailed estimates later this year.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.

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