US Illegal Immigrant Population Stagnant In 2010
Roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants are currently living in the U.S., according to a yearly report released by the Pew Hispanic Center.
This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from a peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009, the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth, the report said.
“When the U.S. economy was weakened and unemployment was up, the immigration numbers dropped,” said Jeffrey Passel, Senior Demographer for the Pew Center. “What we think has happened since 2009 is that the economy has improved a little, so we’ve inferred that the inflows have increased a little, and that has caused the numbers to stabilize.”
The findings show that undocumented immigration numbers in the U.S. have leveled off, while totals in Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia dropped in 2010.
Prior to the late 90s, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. never passed 5 million, Passel said. But those numbers skyrocketed shortly afterward, rising from 8.4 million in 2007 to a high of 12 million in 2007.
The new figures also indicate that the U.S. still has little control of the border, said Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which lobbies for lower immigration levels.
According to USA Today, the Department of Homeland Security deported some 392,000 illegal immigrants in 2010. Martin said that because the number of illegal immigrants did not decrease during that time, it's a clear indication that the border remains out of control.
Researchers say the flow of undocumented immigrants can be explained through economic upswings and hardships, particularly with regard to immigrants from Central America.
The number of children born to at least one unauthorized-immigrant parent in 2009 was 350,000, essentially the same as it was a year earlier. The report also found that half of the undocumented immigrant population, or 5.5 million, are children, 4.5 million of whom were born in the U.S. and are now citizens.
Passel said the most startling figures came in 2007, when immigrant inflow levels dropped to extremely low levels for the first time in two decades. He said this was a direct result of the U.S. economic recession.
Additionally, undocumented immigrants made up 28 percent of the total immigrant population in the U.S. in 2010, down from a high of 31 percent in 2007. Passel believes, however, that the high number of undocumented workers will not have an impact on the so-called “native workforce.”
“We haven’t seen competition per say between undocumented immigrants and natives,” Passel said. “However, we’re sort of in uncharted waters here. We’ve never had this kind of economy, with high unemployment and sustained job loss. So, it may lead to some competition between the two groups.”
Although the figures provided by the Pew Hispanic Center elucidate trends in composition and size of the U.S. undocumented immigrant population, they are not designed to explain why changes in figures occur.
The Center lists the 2007 global recession – which began in the U.S. economy and officially ended in 2009 – as one reason why the population of undocumented immigrants has decreased since 2007. But recovery has been slow to take hold, unemployment remains high and current figures are not outside of past immigration trends, where numbers decreased because of economic distress, according to the Center’s report.
Data for the report was compiled from Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor statistics between March 2009 to March 2010.
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