Border Fence
The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona. REUTERS/Samantha Sais

Illegal immigration into the United States began slowing down with the U.S. economic downturn. But according to a new report, it has continued to level off since, with no signs of growing again – and those who stay in the country are more likely to plant roots.

According to the Pew Research Center’s new estimates on unauthorized immigration, the U.S. undocumented population currently stands at 11.3 million people, a figure that has remained roughly the same since around 2009. Before that, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. had been on a constant ascent over the previous two decades, growing from 3.5 million in 1990 to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

But, the report notes, more undocumented immigrants are staying in the country for prolonged periods of time. Pew estimates that as of 2013, 61 percent of the undocumented population has remained in the U.S. for 10 years or longer, while just 16 percent stayed for less than five years. That’s a sharp divergence from a decade ago, when both groups made up around the same share of the undocumented population.

The uptick in longer-term residents in the undocumented population also means that many of these immigrants have stronger community and family ties in the United States, including children born in the U.S. According to Pew’s numbers, 4 million people – 38 percent of all undocumented immigrants – live with their U.S.-born children. Of that group, 3 million have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or longer.

This group of immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens but lack legal status themselves has been spotlighted in recent weeks as analysts mull over President Obama’s expected executive orders on immigration reform. While Obama has not given any clues about what measures he may announce, immigrants’ rights advocates have been pushing him to take bold and decisive action. One proposal includes creating a new program to delay deportations for immediate family members of U.S. citizens. That would be an ambitious move, but there are many ways Obama could narrow the parameters of eligibility. Meanwhile, the president is reportedly considering delaying his announcement until after the November midterm elections.