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Report: Undocumented population in U.S. may be rising

After declining during the economic downturn, the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States has leveled off and may even be increasing again, according to a new report.

The new assessment by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project estimates that 11.7 undocumented immigrants resided in the United States in March 2012, up from an estimated 11.3 million in 2009.

The country’s undocumented population peaked in 2007, when about 12.2 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, according to the center’s estimates.

But after the economic recession, that population fell abruptly by about half a million.

Authors say that, while it is evident that the sharp decline in the undocumented immigrant population has leveled off, it’s unclear yet whether the population is definitively on the rise.

“Although it appears that the unauthorized Immigrant total has begun to grow again, the data are insufficient to say so definitively,” the authors write in their new report. “The difference in the size of the unauthorized population from 2010 (11.4 million) to 2012 (11.7 million), or from 2011 (11.5 million) to 2012 is not statistically significant.”

Slightly more than half of all unauthorized immigrants in the United States are from Mexico, according to the study.

The number of legal immigrants in the United States has also been increasing.

In 2012, the U.S. population included 28.3 million legal permanent residents who were born abroad, the new study says. That’s up from 26.9 million in 2007.

The Project uses what’s called the “residual” method to estimate the size of the undocumented population. For more on the methodology behind calculating the number of people present in the U.S. illegally, check out our post from April.