After two years of declines, the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. was virtually unchanged last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The annual report, relied upon by both sides in the contentious immigration debate, found 11.2 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., statistically identical to the 11.1 million estimated in 2009. The number peaked in 2007 at 12 million and dropped steadily as the economy collapsed.
“It seems the decline has halted as of 2010,” Jeffrey Passel, one of the report’s authors, said in a conference call with reporters.
The center’s findings do not include reasons for the decline or for the stabilization in the illegal immigrant population, which has widely been attributed to the sluggish economy and tougher enforcement.
“Common sense suggests both of them are, in fact, factors,” said Paul Taylor, the center’s director.
The stabilization seems to stem largely from a dwindling number of people making the often perilous journey into the U.S. from Mexico.
“People in Mexico look at the U.S. economy, they look at the U.S. as a potential source of employment, and they see that the opportunities aren’t here,” Passel said. “They weigh that against the cost of hiring somebody to get them across the border and the risks of getting across the border.”
The report also found that illegal immigrants in 2010 were parents of 5.5 million children, 4.5 million of whom were born in the U.S. and are citizens. Because illegal immigrants are younger and more likely to be married, they represented a disproportionate share of births — 8% of the babies born in the U.S. between March 2009 and March 2010 were to at least one illegal immigrant parent.
The entire report can be viewed or downloaded here (Pdf).
Some summary points:
- The number of unauthorized immigrants decreased from 2007 to 2010 in Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia. The combined population in three contiguous Mountain West states-Arizona, Nevada and Utah-also declined.
- In contrast to the national trend, the combined unauthorized immigrant population in three contiguous West South Central states-Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas-grew from 2007 to 2010.
- Although the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. is below 2007 levels, it has tripled since 1990, when it was 3.5 million and grown by a third since 2000, when it was 8.4 million.
With the hiatus or stabilization of illegal alien migration from Mexico, it is imperative that the Congress enact an enforceable employer verification system for employees. It is obvious that when the economy improves the pressure on the Mexican border will increase.
Since it is unlikely that the Obama Administration will increase the enforcement of existing immigration laws or increase border security, it will fall to the states and the Congress – probably setting up a Presidential election year confrontation.
It is not surprising that California which has the highest number of illegal immigrants, also is one of the states most financially impacted by the recession. You see social welfare, medical and education expenses continue for the children born of the illegal immigrants, year after year.
Nevada has the largest share of illegal workers in the nation, with roughly 10 percent of its work force not authorized by the federal government, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.
The report published Tuesday shows a slight jump in illegal workers as Nevada’s job market has shrunk amid record unemployment. Nevada’s population of illegal workers was 9.4 percent in 2009. The Silver State’s unemployment rate has since climbed to 14.5 percent, the highest in the nation.
Nevada also has the largest share of illegal immigrants at 7.2 percent. Only 3.7 percent of people in the United States are illegal immigrants.
Nevada’s illegal immigrants are far from the mightiest immigrant community in the United States. California’s 1.85 million illegal workers, for example, are the largest in the nation. But they represent only 9.7 percent of the Golden State’s work force.
Nevada’s illegal workers soared in 2007 before the recession hit, climbing to 240,000 employees. That number dropped to 190,000 in 2010.
But, while the numbers MAY have stabilized, the babies born from the illegal immigrants remain. All are American citizens who are entitled to social welfare and education.
Can the states and federal government, any longer afford neglecting this issue?