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The Changing Face of Immigration

By Albert R. Hunt
February 03, 2013 11:32 AM EST

The stars seem aligned for another attempt at reforming U.S. immigration laws. Here is some data for lawmakers to ponder:

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that in 2011, the last year for which there are numbers, 6.8 million of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. were from Mexico. The Pew Hispanic Center, which often has the most reliable immigration data, says the number has dropped to 6.1 million, from 7 million five years before.

The combined effects of the economic slowdown in the U.S., with fewer jobs, and much more aggressive border-control efforts and stepped-up deportations by the Obama administration explain the decline.

After Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are the countries of origin of the largest numbers of unauthorized immigrants, with more than 1.5 million combined, according to the Homeland Security figures. Next are four Asian countries: China, the Philippines, India and South Korea, which accounted for a little more than 1 million between them.

Not surprisingly, the government estimates that the majority of these immigrants live in California, Texas and Florida. Next, however, are two non-border states, New York and Illinois, with more than 500,000 each.

 (Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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