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Numbers Reveal How Asian Undocumented Remain Hidden in America

The 2010 Census ranked Indians third behind Chinese and Filipino in the Asian-American population, but a closer look at the undocumented portion of the population paints a surprising picture.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the largest number of undocumented Asian Americans are Indian, at an estimated 450,000 or 4 percent of the total number of undocumented people in the U.S. That makes India the fourth largest source of unauthorized immigrants in America, behind Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Previously reported data on undocumented Asian America, from AAPI Data, used figures from the Migration Policy Institute and Department of Homeland Security. That data listed China (280,000) as the leading Asian source of undocumented immigrants to America, ahead of the Philippines (270,000), and India (240,000), but showed the Indian population growing 2-3 times faster than the top two nations, with a growth rate of 94 percent.

Suman Raghunathan, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), attributes the population boom to a lack of comprehensive immigration reform since 1986, combined with a high number of those who may enter legally, but overstay their visas.

“The Indian community in the U.S., like many other immigrant communities, is rife with what we call mixed-status families," she said, "where one individual may be undocumented, and others may be U.S. citizens." Raghunathan says that reality makes it easy for undocumented individuals to blend in, and stay hidden.

SAALT is working with 49 community groups to make sure those who are eligible for deportation relief know their options and get reputable legal help. Raghunathan added that up to 40 percent of undocumented Indian population could be eligible for deportation relief as proposed by President Obama.

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