By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - Nevada has the highest proportion of illegal immigrants of any U.S. state at 7.6 percent of its population while the number of illegal immigrants nationwide is leveling off at about 11.2 million, according to a study released on Tuesday.
The study by the Pew Research Center looked at U.S. illegal immigrant population trends over a three-year period ending in 2012.
The number of illegal immigrants in Nevada fell by 20,000 over that period, according to the Pew analysis, but the state still had about 210,000. California and Texas ranked second and third, respectively, in the share of illegal immigrants as a percentage of their total population.
In addition to having the highest proportion of illegal immigrants per capita, Nevada also has the largest share of them in its workforce, at 10 percent, the study found.
Illegal immigration is a divisive issue in the United States, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of doing too little to stem the flow of such immigrants from across the border with Mexico. President Barack Obama has vowed to take action to reform U.S. immigration policy before the end of the year, bypassing Republicans in Congress.
Most illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanic and many cross the Mexican border into southwestern states.
California has the highest number of illegal immigrants, estimated at 2.4 million in 2012, but has not seen that population grow as quickly as many other states including Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, the study found.
The Pew study found that the population of people living illegally in the United States leveled off nationwide during the three-year time frame, dropping in 14 states due to the number of migrants coming across the Mexican border declining from a peak of 6.9 million in 2007.
At the same time, the number of illegal immigrants rose during that period in five East Coast states - Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia - as well as in Idaho and Nebraska.
The study found that the nationwide population of 11.2 million illegal immigrants in 2012 was unchanged from 2009.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Will Dunham)