December 30, 2014

U.S. border apprehensions of Mexicans fall to historic lows

For the first time on record, more non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended at U.S. borders in 2014 by the Border Patrol, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of more than 60 years of Border Patrol data. This shift is another sign that unauthorized immigrants from Mexico are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border significantly less often than they did before the Great Recession.

U.S. Border apprehensions of Mexicans fall to historic lowsAbout 229,000 Mexicans were apprehended by the Border Patrol in fiscal year 2014 compared with 257,000 non-Mexicans during the previous year, according to recently published Border Patrol data. Taken together, total apprehensions of Mexican and non-Mexican unauthorized immigrants (more than 486,000) were up 16% over the previous year.

These numbers are dramatically different than in 2007 when Mexican apprehensions totaled 809,000, compared with just 68,000 non-Mexicans. The number of Mexican immigrants apprehended at the border peaked at 1.6 million in 2000, the Pew Research analysis showed. The last time Mexican apprehensions were as low as they are now was in 1970 when 219,000 Mexicans were apprehended. In 1970, non-Mexican apprehensions totaled just 12,000.

The recent increase in non-Mexican apprehensions is due in part to a surge in unaccompanied Central American child migrants crossing the border without their parents. In fiscal year 2014, nearly 52,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, more than double the total from the previous year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. By contrast, the number of unaccompanied Mexican children apprehended slightly declined over the same time period, from 17,000 to 16,000.

The new Border Patrol apprehensions data reflect a broader ongoing shift in the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population that was shaped by a migration wave from Mexico that lasted from the 1980s until the Great Recession. Mexico remains the top country of origin for the nation’s unauthorized immigrants, but their numbers have declined since 2007, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Despite the decline, the estimated 5.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico still account for a majority (52%) of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population.

As numbers have fallen, unauthorized immigrants from other parts of the world are steady or on the rise. The unauthorized immigrant population from Central America, Asia, the Caribbean and the rest of the world grew slightly from 2009 to 2012. Over this time period, the number of unauthorized immigrants from Central America grew by 100,000. There was a similar increase in unauthorized immigrants from Asia.

Although investments by the U.S. federal government on border security have increased and migration has slowed, the U.S. public has put a greater emphasis on border security. From February 2013 to August 2014, the share of Americans who said the priority should be on better border security when dealing with illegal immigration rose from 25% to 33%.

Meanwhile, as fewer unauthorized immigrants from Mexico try to enter the U.S., those already in the U.S. are staying put. In 2013, unauthorized immigrant adults had been in the U.S. for a median of 13 years, up from eight years a decade earlier, a trend driven in part by Mexican migration patterns.

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Mexico

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jeffrey S. Passel

    is a senior demographer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    Did any of the people who responded below bother to read the article? “Instead of Mexican people coming across the border from Mexico in large numbers, now products and investments are flowing north.” ( There are Mexican companies in parts of the US that are pouring billions of dollars in investments for manufacturing which in turn hire American workers.

  2. TOM JONES2 years ago

    Who do I have to contact regarding someone who overstayed their visa ( came to the U.S. from Mexico ) stayed in Miami almost a year, the moved to Oklahoma and married someone, even though she is still married to someone in Mexico.???????

  3. cris3 years ago

    so true if we look at recent videos on youtube with reportage from the border, almost all of the people working there says the border is not safe, whatever they say about it being safe is not true they say

  4. Theusaparty3 years ago

    What is wrong with you people?!!! This is crazy! Our government has failed to secured the border. If only 1% illegal aliens successfully cross our border; that is still 16,000 in the year 2000 and 5,000 last year. Unfortunately, we know that much more than 1% is successfully sneaking across our border.
    If they were successful, they wouldn’t keep trying. How many North Koreans try to cross the Korean border; hardly any because they know they will not be successful? If there were 1.6 million North Koreans trying to cross the Korean border in one year, they would be at war right now. Why can the US military so tightly secure the Korean border, but we can’t have them secure our Southern Border?
    At, we say we must move 80,000 troops from overseas and 100,000 continental troops from the US and place along our southern border. We say, let the border guards manage the crossing at the established legal crossing points and let the US military keep everything else from crossing everywhere else.

    1. Carolin2 years ago

      I don´t think that Korea is the big problems of the north koreans if they try to cross the border, since North Korea would never let anyone go voluntary. Just like about 25 years ago with West- Germany and the DDR.
      Honestly like 99% of the illegal immigrants do not want to do any harm to the US. They only want a job (even though the USA may be the wrong place for that) and the chance to a better live (again in my opinion the USA is the wrong country for that).
      The whole story is kind of funny since the ancestors of every person legally living in the USA today were illegal immigrants…but somehow every single one of you tends to forget that. Just as the little poem written down on the statue of liberty.
      But whatever.

      Maybe if you tried to fix your broken economy and the obviously big problems in your health care system, school system,(…) the illegal aliens wouldn´t even matter that much. But since that would mean that you actually had to use your brain instead of guns I don´t believe that this will ever happen.

      1. CJC2 years ago

        My ancestors were not illegal immigrants. They entered this country according to the requirements of the laws and were documented. That’s what legal immigrants do. They don’t sneak in and hide under bushes in the desert. I’m really tired of liberals trying to claim we all come from illegal immigrants. NO! We all came from immigrants… NOT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS! And every country just about is tougher on illegal immigration than we are. It is essential to protect your country’s sovereignty. Do you see what’s happening right now in Europe with arabs trying to force their way over borders? They are nearly all young men. I wonder why?! And they openly say they have no respect for these countries’ laws. Not what you want to hear from people who like to behead anyone that disagrees with them. They also openly say that they expect to be given government housing and welfare. England with their high percentage of liberals is now thinking that they need to shut down immigration. We should do the same at least until the hostiles are absorbed by other arab countries if we’re smart.

  5. Gary R Wise3 years ago

    “Non-Mexicans” – is that scientific?

    I’m more interested in the make-up of Nationalities of this group. What percentage are from our continent and how many from non-american roots? Surely this would have been a perfect time to prove or disprove the assertion that terrorists get through our porous borders?

    However, I’m not surprised that they concentrate on “Mexicans” because the typical public thinks everything is Mexico to the south of our border.

  6. Denny3 years ago

    With these figures, it is not at all much of a push to see a government fall into actions similar to those you see by the government in “The Hunger Games” is it?? If our government looses control of our entry-points as well as the fences that are in place, we too may elect to take more drastic actions against the illegal immigrants who are trying to gain access into America!!

    1. Becky3 years ago

      “America” is a continent (from Alaska to Argentina). The solution doesn’t rely on the actions to stop them from trying to get in the Unites States of America, but in taking actions to improve the living conditions and their access to opportunities in their own countries. Most immigrants are looking for survival rather than stealing jobs from US citizens. For most people leaving their country, their families, their life is just the only option that keeps them from ending in worst things like narcotraffic. Immigration is actually a sad story of people struggling to survive. We shouldn’t forget most of us come from Inmigrants from England, Spain, Germany and France…So it is part if human nature to look for better opportunities, we sure should worry about it if we are not willing to work as hard as they do to make a good living.

  7. Gregory Johnson3 years ago

    This is interesting with the focus on Immigration being primarily directed at the relationship between the US & Mexico and Central America.

    What are the numbers between the US and Canada? Is anyone keeping track of the boarder crossings of the North in both directions? I am more curious about the Northern crossings than the Southern crossings because I believe a meaningful number of jobs and positions in locations like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. are occupied by illegals from Canada.

    It is also interesting that people make reference to terrorist entering the country through Mexico or our Southern boarders when it was widely reported that the events of 911 were of terrorist entering the country from the North or Canada. Is there more to this than we are being told. We also know that the Boarder Patrol to the North is very laxed in management and drugs are free flowing between the US and Canada on a daily basis.

    So, what’s really going on here?

  8. Gregory Johnson3 years ago

    This is interesting with the focus on Immigration being primarily directed at the relationship between the US & Mexico and Central America.

    What are the numbers between the US and Canada? Is anyone keeping track of the boarder crossings of the North in both directions? I am more curious about the Northern crossings than the Southern crossings because I believe a meaningful number of jobs and positions in locations like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. are occupied by illegals from Canada.

  9. Frank Livingston3 years ago

    Keep in mind, this is not just about Hispanics taking our jobs and getting on welfare, that is bad enough it is about keeping the pipeline open for Middle Eastern terrorist organizations! Look at how easy it is going to be for Cuba to continue sending Hezbollah, Hamas and other Middle Eastern terrorist organization into America.
    Take time to read CUBA’S SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM AND THE VENEZUELA-IRAN NEXUS by Jaime Suchlicki on May 2, 2014.
    “Iran, Cuba and Venezuela have developed a close and cooperative relationship against the U.S. and in support of terrorist groups and states. The three regimes increasingly coordinate their policies and resources in a three way partnership aimed at counteracting and circumventing U.S. policies in the Middle East and Latin America. Within this relationship, Cuba plays a strategic role in terms of geography (proximity to the U.S.), intelligence gathering (both electronic eavesdropping and human espionage) and logistics.
    In addition to its proven technical prowess to interfere and intercept U.S. telecommunications, Cuba has deployed around the world a highly effective human intelligence network. The type of espionage carried out by Ana Belén Montes, the senior U.S. defense intelligence analyst who spied for Cuba during some 16 years until her arrest in 2001, has enabled the Castro regime to amass a wealth of intelligence on U.S. vulnerabilities as well as a keen understanding of the inner-workings of the U.S. security system. Such information and analysis was provided to Saddam Hussein prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and is being provided to a strategic ally like Iran. While one may argue that factors such as Iran’s limited military capabilities and sheer distance diminish any conventional concerns, one should expect that Tehran, in case of a U.S.-Iran conflict would launch an asymmetrical offensive against the U.S. and its European allies through surrogate terrorist states and paramilitary organizations. In such a scenario, Cuban intelligence would be invaluable to Iran and its proxies and Cuban territory could be used by terrorist groups to launch operations against the U.S.
    In specific terms Cuba has not abandoned its support for terrorist groups and states:
    • Cuba directly and through Venezuela continues to provide intelligence to Hamas and Hezbollah.
    • Two Arab Shiites, Ghazi Nasr Al din and Fawzi Kanaan have set-up shop in Caracas, Venezuela under the protection of the Venezuelan government. Working in coordination with the Cuban government, both are active in promoting Hezbollah and Iranian targets in South America and against the U.S. They fundraise for Hezbollah; facilitate travel for Hezbollah activists to Venezuela and through Venezuela to other countries. This is all part of the strategic alliance between Venezuela, Cuba and Iran. There are also reports that they have smuggled narcotics and terrorists to the U.S. through Mexico and arms and explosives under Iranian diplomatic cover.

  10. Packard Day3 years ago

    Assuming you and yours already have jobs that require high skills, high education, or you do something that cannot be easily taught with only two weeks worth of OJT training; then unfettered immigration and amnesty is going to be a great benefit. The people we are now talking about represent our future haulers of water and hewers of wood. Ergo and ipso facto, for those living in the top 10%, a good back is a terrible thing to waste when applied to our labor classes…ehh?

  11. Bob3 years ago

    could be that the Border Patrol operating 10 to 30 miles north of the border may have something to do with it.

  12. lcf3 years ago

    I’m not sure if I completely trust this data. how do we know that Border Patrol effectiveness, or the manner in which the measurement is made, did not change ~2006? Stated another way, the trend reversal in 2006 is unexplained and suspect. My concern is that we use this data as an indicator of volume of illegal traffic and that usage has not been validated.

  13. Zack Taylor3 years ago

    The number of apprehensions is a meaningless number. It does not correlate as to how many illegal entries took place that were not apprehended or otherwise counted.