Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn at Pew:
The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center.
This sharp decline has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.-to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. The decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades.
These new Pew Hispanic Center estimates rely on data mainly from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and decennial census. The unauthorized immigrant population is estimated using the widely accepted residual method, in which a demographic estimate of the legal foreign-born population is subtracted from the total foreign-born population. The difference provides the basis for estimating the size and characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population.
The Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis also finds that the most marked decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants has been among those who come from Latin American countries other than Mexico. From 2007 to 2009, the size of this group from the Caribbean, Central America and South America decreased 22%.
Audrey Singer at TNR:
Loss of immigrants, particularly the unauthorized, may be the ultimate indicator of economic sluggishness. The fragile economies of most metropolitan areas in the Mountain West states and Florida ranked them at the top of the list for job loss, devalued housing prices, and foreclosures.
As my colleague Bill Frey has demonstrated, this decade has been a migration rollercoaster ride for some states. Nowhere was this more evident than in Florida which led all states with the greatest domestic in-migration rates in the early part of this decade, but between 2008 and 2009 lost more than it gained for the first time in forever. Nevada also saw a migration reversal on a smaller scale after gangbusters growth during the early years of the 2000s.
Thus, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates, because of the time period measured (through March 2009), may not yet have captured the greatest declines in unauthorized immigrants for these states that have seen abrupt u-turns in their overall growth and as enforcement capacity is strengthened at the border.
The only other state with significant unauthorized immigrant population declines was Virginia, a state whose elected officials have taken a strong public stance against illegal immigration. It also saw a mid-decade reversal of domestic growth, starting a bit earlier than Florida’s and Nevada’s.
The declines in illegal immigration to Florida and Virginia stand out for another reason. Among states with large total immigrant populations, they have some of the smallest shares of Mexican immigrants, about 7 percent of their respective state totals. That suggests that other origin groups are substantially making up the unauthorized immigrant population, defying stereotypes. Nationally, the Pew Hispanic estimates show about 60 percent of unauthorized immigrants are Mexican.
The new estimates and trends should provide a moment of reflection as we contemplate both our economic predicament and how best to change our laws and policies around immigration and border enforcement. As the United States recovers from the recession, immigrant flows are likely to increase, including those of immigrants crossing the border illegally and those who might see a fresh opportunity and decide to violate the terms of their visas.
Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place:
One more thing that’s important to note from the report: “In addition to the decline in Nevada, three other Mountain states — Arizona, Colorado and Utah — experienced a decrease in their combined unauthorized immigrant population from 2008 to 2009.” That contradicts the arguments of supporters of Arizona’s SB 1070 and other border hawks that more restrictive laws are necessary because of a recent flood of undocumented immigrants. Although the report may still shed some light on why Arizonans feel that way: the larger trend is that, between 1990 and 2009, Arizona’s share of the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. increased.
The report also offers more evidence that the criticisms of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and other Republicans about lax enforcement on behalf of the federal government are overblown, let alone hyperbole about an ongoing “invasion” from across the border. While careful to state that “the data in this report do not allow quantification” of all the factors involved in the decline of the illegal immigrant population, it lists major shifts in the level of immigration enforcement and in enforcement strategies,” as one of the major factors that “undoubtedly contribute to the overall magnitude of immigration flows.”
None of this is likely to change the politics of comprehensive immigration reform. Since completely “securing the border” is beyond our technical means, restrictionists can always call for more enforcement in lieu of actually working on legislation.
This is yet another piece of information which seemingly debunks many of the centrally held beliefs of the political movement that is currently asserting that we are in the middle of an immigration “crisis.” Steven Taylor has posted here several times debunking other such myths, such as the idea that crime along the Mexico/Arizona border is at an all-time high, that Arizona itself is suffering through an illegal immigration fueled crime wave, and that the Obama Administration is not taking border enforcement seriously.
Before we start engaging in a wholesale immigration debate, it would be nice to get the facts right.
It really is good news, but I’m seeing people linking/tweeting it as evidence that the great wingnut noise machine has once again hyped an issue that practically doesn’t. even. exist. Simple question: Notwithstanding the fact that deportations are way up under Obama’s administration, does anyone seriously expect the trend in lower illegal immigration to continue if/when the economy finally comes back? Illegals are no more recession-proof than anyone else; if the jobs ain’t here (especially construction jobs), there’s less reason to come. When the jobs return, so will they.
Note the hard numbers, too. We’re talking about the difference between absorbing a population the size of South Dakota’s and a population that’s “only” half the size of Wyoming’s each and every year. It’s an improvement, but I dare say that border isn’t secure just yet.
Also maybe the “hassle the immigrants and deport them” tactic appears to be having an effect too, supposedly, according top pro-hassling-the-immigrants groups. But we have a long way to go! Consider the case of Atlanta, where a taxpayer-funded hospital cut off dialysis treatment for a bunch of illegal immigrants with end-stage renal disease last year. But now they’re backing down because it made them look bad and also some churches might agree to pay for it. How did the sinister illegals celebrate their cruel victory over American justice?
“That would make me feel real happy because continuing with my dialysis, I need it to live,” said Ignacio Godinez Lopez, 24.
God, can you taste the triumphalism? This is worse than building a dozen 9/11 mosques