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INS: 7 million illegal immigrants in United States

Mexicans make up nearly 70 percent of total, figures show

From Terry Frieden

Mexicans make up nearly 70 percent of total, figures show

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than a million illegal immigrants have slipped into the United States in the past few years, raising the total in the country to 7 million, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Friday.

The vast majority of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico, officials said.

The numbers are based on census figures from 2000 and the agency's own statistics. They are the first official government figures on illegal immigration released since 1996.

The figures show that between October 1996 and January 2000, the number of illegal immigrants grew from about 5.8 million to about 7 million, an increase of more than 300,000 annually.

The proportion of the illegal immigrants who are Mexican has increased to nearly 70 percent from less than 60 percent, the INS said.

Although California is home to the most undocumented immigrants, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina have the greatest rate of increase, the figures showed.

Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said the latest figures are believed to be more accurate than previous ones because they reflect new methods used to determine trends in the entry and departure of undocumented residents.

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