The number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. has dropped for the first time in two decades — decreasing by 8 percent since 2007, a new study finds. The reasons range from the sour economy to Mexican violence and increased U.S. enforcement that has made it harder to sneak across the border.
Much of the decline comes from a sharp drop-off in illegal immigrants from the Caribbean, Central America and South America attempting to cross the southern border of the U.S., according to the Pew Hispanic Center, which based its report on an analysis of 2009 census data.
The findings come amid bitter debate over Arizona’s strict new immigration law, which was passed earlier this year but is on hold for now as it is challenged in federal court. The Obama administration contends the state law usurps federal authority and promotes racial profiling, while Arizona leaders say states are justified to step in if federal enforcement falls substantially short.
The study released Wednesday estimates that 11.1 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2009. That represents a decrease of roughly 1 million, or 8 percent, from a peak of 12 million in 2007.
The study puts the number of illegal immigrants down to about where it was in 2005. They still make up roughly 4 percent of the U.S. population.
The Homeland Security Department’s own estimate of illegal immigrants is slightly lower, at 10.8 million. The government uses a different census survey that makes some year-to-year comparisons difficult.
An increase in unauthorized immigrants leaving the U.S., by deportation or for economic reasons, may have played a factor in the falling number.
In recent years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported an increasing number of illegal immigrants, reaching a high last year of more than 389,000 people, according to government figures.
States in the Southeast and Southwest saw some of the biggest declines in the number of illegal immigrants from 2008 to 2009, including Florida, Nevada and Virginia. Arizona saw a decrease, but it was too small to be statistically significant.
It’s hard to figure out how much of the decline to attribute to the bad economy and how much to federal immigration enforcement, said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew who co-wrote the analysis.
“They’re certainly acting together,” he said. Passel said illegal immigrants now find it more expensive and dangerous to cross into the U.S. and also have less incentive to do so given the languishing job market in construction and other low-wage industries.
The Pew analysis found the sharpest decline — 22 percent — among illegal immigrants from Latin American countries other than Mexico. This may reflect a lesser-known aspect of the immigration debate that broke into the news again last week when the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants were found in a cartel stronghold in northern Mexico: Thousands of non-Mexicans go missing on their way to the United States, falling victim to demands that they pay impossible ransoms to criminal gangs that control access to the U.S. border.
“While people are arguing the government is not stopping illegal immigration, our data suggests the flow of undocumented immigrants sneaking into the country has dropped dramatically,” Passel said.
The estimates by Pew will add to the political back-and-forth on immigration reform.
President Barack Obama, who is challenging the Arizona law, has pledged to push an overhaul of federal immigration law but has declined to set a timeline.
After the passage of Arizona’s immigration law, more than a dozen states were considering similar legislation or have issued legal opinions aimed at strengthening immigration enforcement. They include Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and Utah.
Boosted by immigration and high numbers of births among Latinos, minorities now make up roughly half the children born in the U.S., part of a historic trend in which they are projected to become the majority of Americans by mid-century. Roughly one in four counties currently have more minority children than white children or are nearing that point.
Still, the Census Bureau has made clear that projected minority growth — particularly among Hispanics — could change substantially depending on immigration policies and the economy.
Other Pew findings:
_The states with the highest percentage of illegal immigrants were California (6.9 percent), Nevada (6.8 percent), Texas (6.5 percent) and Arizona (5.8 percent). The numbers are expected to play an important factor in whether those states lose or gain fewer U.S. House seats than expected after the 2010 census.
_Illegal immigrants make up about 28 percent of the foreign-born population in the U.S., down from 31 percent in 2007.
_The unemployment rate for illegal immigrants in March 2009 was 10.4 percent — higher than that of U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants, who had unemployment of 9.2 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate of welcoming more immigrants to the U.S., said he was not surprised by the study’s findings.
“It exemplifies what I’ve been saying all along,” Bloomberg told reporters. “Not totally, but generally, people come here from around the world — whether they come here legally or illegally — to work, to build a better life for themselves and for their families. And when our economy is down, it’s just tougher to get a job.”
The Pew analysis is based on census data through March 2009. Because the Census Bureau does not ask people about their immigration status, the estimate on illegal immigrants is derived largely by subtracting the estimated legal immigrant population from the total foreign-born population. It is a method that has been used by the government and Pew for many years and is generally accepted.
Associated Press writer Sara Kugler Frazier in New York contributed to this report.
Pew Hispanic Center: https://pewhispanic.org/
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
9 thoughts on “Illegal immigration declines”
According to news articles the same issue is now front and center in Europe with the EU attempting to devise plans to deal with the onslaught of ILLEGAL immigrants. Guess that is another whole batch of insensitive countries concerned only about their own petty self interests.
The economy is still contracting, foreclosures are still rampant. Unemployment ticked up last month. No one is traveling so there is less demand for chamber maids. Fewer and fewer lawns and gardens to tend to in suburbia. No more jobs for Americans, much less for Jose’ and Maria.
It’s too late paul66. There’s no turning the tide back. Our system of government is absolutely broken. We’ve all been sold out by compromised Congressmen who dance to the tune of their corporatist controllers. Once hitting D.C. after a successful run for office; they proceed to sell us all out for just a “few dollars more”. They are simply traitors in high places.
It’s estimated by 2050 or even before that there will be a Hispanic majority in the U.S. So the best unsolicited advice for gringos is to learn Western hemispheric Spanish and learn to get along.
I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have quite a population of Hispanics in our state. I’ve learned a bit of Spanish, I’ve learned to smile, make over their kids and guess what, they’re people just like us, desperately trying to survive.
The landscaping crew I hire to groom my property on occasion are Hispanic. They blow away the white competition in terms of performance and satisfaction concerning the quality of work.
I’m personally against uncontrolled immigration and wish things could be turned around, but as I’ve mentioned the politicians that have made it to D.C. are more concerned with the Hispanic vote, legal or otherwise, therefore refuse to take a serious position and action on the issue. Their attitude is we don’t need no stinkin’ America, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights etc. To them it’s a borderless, Brave New World Order where the concept of the nation state is to be cast aside in the interest of global markets and enterprise zones. The U.S. soon to become simply a plantation within the greater world plantation. The NAU (North American Union) is headed down the pike where the Western hemisphere is targeted to become one enterprise zone from the Arctic to Cape Horn, one currency, the Amero, all of us sharing the same collective misery under one globalist boot.
Carl Nemo **==
How can I believe anything the government states when for the last 10-12 years the magic number is 12 million. Why is it everwhere I travel on the east coast that they are everywhere. I honestly believe the number must be 30-50 million. Please no amnesty and if they cross over and drop a baby there should be a lifetime ban from the Us for the parents.
I’m sure the current administration is entirely capable of keeping the “sour economy” portion as part of the equation.
Had to quote this because I found it odd they try to bolster the Federal case while in the preceding paragraph they cite that it isn’t the Federal government in control of the border, but rather criminal gangs.
Wanted to note the cherry-picking pro-illegal immigrant here as illegal immigrants apparently are unemployed less than blacks (15.6%), teenagers (26.1%) and Hispanics (12.1%).
So to answer GhL’s question, the only spin seems to be coming from Pew and The Associated Press.
1. “Had to quote this because I found it odd they try to bolster the Federal case while in the preceding paragraph they cite that it isn’t the Federal government in control of the border, but rather criminal gangs.”
There you go again. The original above does not say one darned word about Federal control of the US border. It says “. . . criminal gangs that control access to the U.S. border” and implies on the Mexican side. That’s a problem for the Mexican police to deal with, not us.
Why are you always so willing to trash the Federal government, going so far as to say things that are patently false?
2. “Wanted to note the cherry-picking pro-illegal immigrant here as illegal immigrants apparently are unemployed less than blacks (15.6%), teenagers (26.1%) and Hispanics (12.1%).”
Could it be, do you think, that the reason the unemployment rate for illegal immigrants is lower is because (1) they are willing to do jobs that no one else will do and (2) because it’s easier to get an accurate count of the unemployed when the people being counted don’t have to worry about the ICE man?
No, it’s not I think. Govt stats are notoriously wrong and self serving. If they don’t like the reality, they change the metric to look better.
Another strike against the Nigerian interloper! Damn the man!
What are we going to do when we have to stop screaming about the huge increases in illegal immigrants every year? The sky is falling! The sky is falling.
I cannot wait to see how the Glenn Plaid Becks and the Obtuse Angles and the Rushes for Brains Limbaughs and the dittoheads and the Toilet Paper Party spin this one!
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