Illegal Immigration, Climate Change, and China Feature in Pew Research Center’s Noteworthy Findings for 2019

Pew Research Center has named a decline in unauthorized Mexican migrants as one of its most noteworthy findings of the year.

Mexicans no longer account for the majority of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. In 2007, there were 12.2 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., including 6.9 million Mexicans. By 2017, there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants, including 4.9 million Mexicans.

While the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has decreased, the numbers from two regions – Asia and Central America – have risen. Overall, there were 5.5 million unauthorized immigrants from countries other than Mexico in 2017, compared with 5.3 million in 2007.

One reflection of the changing migration patterns is at the U.S.-Mexico border, where apprehensions of non-Mexican migrants has vastly outnumbered those of Mexicans in the 2019 fiscal year (80% vs. 20%). In 2000, by comparison, non-Mexicans accounted for just 2% of apprehensions at the southwest border, while Mexicans accounted for 98%.

In the 2019 fiscal year, there were more apprehensions of Guatemalans (264,168) and Hondurans (253,795) than Mexicans (166,458), while El Salvador was fourth on the list with 89,811 apprehensions.

The Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras together accounted for 71% of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019. The 607,774 apprehensions from these three countries outnumbered the total from Mexico even though their combined population (32.6 million) is only a quarter of Mexico’s (129.2 million). Migration from the Northern Triangle is driven by poverty, violence, corruption, and climate change. This trend is unlikely to abate significantly until the core issues are addressed, although with the Trump administration setting new limits to the number of refuges that the U.S. accepts, these migrants may look to new routes.

In fiscal year 2019, there were 473,682 apprehensions of “family units” (defined as the number of individuals traveling in a family), representing 56% of apprehensions overall and more than four times the next-highest annual total of family member apprehensions on record (107,212 in fiscal 2018). Apprehensions of unaccompanied children ages 17 and younger also reached their highest level on record (76,020 in fiscal 2019, compared with a previous high of 68,541 in fiscal 2014). In all other recent years, apprehensions of individual adults far outnumbered those of family members or unaccompanied children.

The El Paso region saw a 477% surge in migrant apprehensions in fiscal 2019 compared with fiscal 2018 (from 31,561 to 182,143). That was by far the largest percentage increase of any of the nine southwest Border Patrol sectors. In fiscal 2019, El Paso ranked second in apprehensions only to the Rio Grande sector, which saw an increase of 109% between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 (from 162,262 apprehensions to 339,135).

Despite these figures, the U.S. no longer leads the world in admitting refugees. Canada resettled 28,000 refugees in 2018 – similar to its total in 2017 – the U.S. resettled 23,000, down from 33,000 the year before and far below a recent high of 97,000 in 2016. The U.S. had previously admitted more refugees each year than all other countries combined.

Another of Pew Research Center’s most noteworthy findings from 2019 is the rise in the number of Americans who view China as a threat. The share of Americans with an unfavorable view of China reached a 14-year high with six-in-ten U.S. adults now holding a negative opinion of China. Further, around a quarter of Americans (24%) name China as the country or group that poses the greatest threat to the U.S. in the future, double the share who said this in 2007. China is tied with Russia (24%) as the country or group most cited by Americans as a threat to the U.S.; the only other country to measure in the double digits is North Korea (12%).

Pew also notes in its annual findings that the majority of U.S. military veterans – as well as the broader U.S. public – say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting. Among veterans, 64% say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, while 58% say the same about the war in Afghanistan.

The American public holds similar views: 62% and 59% of U.S. adults, respectively, say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth it, considering the costs and the benefits. When asked about the U.S. military campaign in Syria, 55% of veterans and 58% of the public say the campaign has not been worth it.

On climate change, Pew Research Center found that, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, only 27% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say climate change is a major threat to the wellbeing of the U.S.

Overall, concerns about climate change have risen, but most of the change has come among Democrats. The share of Americans who see global climate change as a major threat has increased from 40% in 2013 to 57% this year. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 84% say global climate change is a major threat, up from 58% in 2013.

Read all of Pew Research Center’s findings from 2019 here

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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