Currently 10.9 million immigrants live in the country illegally, according to the Washington Post, which got the report first. That is the first time the unauthorized immigrant population has dropped below 11 million since 2004 and it is at its lowest level since 2003. The report reveals that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has been shrinking steadily since 2008.
In a presidential election cycle where Republicans–especially Donald Trump– have made illegal immigration a central tenet of their message, the report is a stark reminder of the vast gap between electoral rhetoric that fires up the GOP base and the reality on the ground. Immigration has emerged as a major fault line in the GOP as more moderate Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been attacked for their positions that immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally should have a chance to earn legal status while Trump has boasted the need to build a big ol' border wall.
"One reason for the high and sustained level of interest in undocumented immigration is the widespread belief that the trend in the undocumented population is ever upward," the new Center for Migration Studies report says. "This paper shows that this belief is mistaken and that, in fact, the undocumented population has been decreasing for more than a half a decade."
The report today suggests that illegal immigration is down in part because Mexican nationals have entered the U.S. in far lower numbers than they did before the U.S. economic recession. That drop has led to a net decrease in immigration even as the number of Central American migrants has increased in recent years.
A drop in the number of European and South American immigrants have also contributed to the decline in the undocumented immigrant population.
The number of Mexican-born immigrants illegally in the U.S. has dropped by 600,000 since 2010 and legal migration from Mexico has actually outpaced illegal immigration over the last three decades.
While illegal immigration has dropped nationally, the report does note that there are 11 states–including Cruz's home state of Texas– where the population of immigrants living in the state illegally have grown.