1 Million Fewer Illegals In U.S., Study Says

1 million fewer illegals in U.S., study says

By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times, February 10, 2010

The number of illegal immigrants in the United States dropped by nearly 1 million from 2007 to 2009 as the Bush administration ramped up enforcement efforts just as the economy took a dive, according to new figures the Homeland Security Department released Tuesday.

The drop – which analysts said is unprecedented in modern history – indicates that more illegal immigrants left to go back home, and that fewer illegal immigrants actually tried to cross the border in 2007 and 2008 – data that will play a major role when Congress takes up the immigration issue later this year.

Homeland Security demographers said the nation's population of illegal immigrants totaled 10.8 million in January 2009, down from a peak of 11.8 million in 2007, and from 11.6 million in January 2008. The reduction was powered in large part by a drop in illegal immigrants from Mexico, which saw a decline of nearly 400,000.

The numbers, based on U.S. Census Bureau data, come as President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators seek to push a new overhaul bill that would legalize most illegal immigrants and revamp the legal immigration system.

After the last effort to pass an immigration bill failed in mid-2007, the Bush administration announced it would step up enforcement efforts, including high-profile raids and new powers to enforce immigration laws for some state and local police departments. At almost the same time, the economy entered a recession in December 2007, lessening the attraction of the country for would-be immigrants.

Matthew Chandler, a Homeland Security spokesman, said both factors likely contributed to the dropping numbers.

'When employment opportunities shrink as they have during the current recession and particularly in those industries employing large numbers of unauthorized immigrants, then it would not be unexpected to see a decrease in the unauthorized population,' he said.

Mr. Chandler also credited the 'unprecedented resources' his department has devoted to stopping crime and smuggling along the Southwest border, as well as what he called 'smarter and more effective immigration-law enforcement.'

Late last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the stepped-up enforcement has proven to be effective, and said the government has shown it can secure the borders. She argued the time is now ripe to move to a broader legalization bill.

But Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which backs a crackdown on immigration, said the numbers poke a hole in one of the arguments for legalization – the notion that illegal immigrants are here to stay, so legalizing them is the only option.

'This suggests that that may not be the case – that in fact the numbers can go down. It's not inexorable. Instead of growing, it's fallen quite a bit,' he said.

Every year about this time the Department of Homeland Security releases an estimate of the nation's illegal-immigrant population. The department warned that year-to-year data can be uncertain.

But the Homeland Security numbers match a study Mr. Camarota released last summer that also estimated the illegal-immigrant population at about 10.8 million at the beginning of 2009.

EDITORS NOTE: The DHS report is available online at: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2009.pdf


New report says illegal immigration population plummeted last year
By Matt O'Brien
The Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), February 9, 2010

The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped by 1 million people in two years, according to new estimates by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The government believes 10.8 million illegal immigrants lived in the country in January 2009, down from a peak of nearly 12 million in 2007. If the official estimates are correct, not since 2005 has the population of illegal immigrants been as low as it was last year.

Some private researchers, however, are questioning the magnitude of the drop.

'It's very clear the undocumented population basically stopped growing after 2006,' said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer with the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center. 'It's plausible that the numbers have gotten smaller. But the way that they're measuring it, if you compare this estimate with the one two years ago, it overstates the degree of decline.'

Twice over the past two years, Passel said the U.S. Census Bureau has changed the way it measures immigration in its annual population surveys. Since nearly all estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population rely on the census survey numbers, these changes might have distorted the results. The authors of the government estimates could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The report cautioned that changes made to the census survey could have affected the results. The report, produced annually since 2005, is the government's official tabulation of immigrants living here illegally.

Most researchers agree that no matter the size of the population, which is notoriously hard to measure, the rate of illegal immigration dropped sharply during the recession. They disagree, however, on the causes.

'The number of new undocumented immigrants coming in has plummeted,' Passel said.

Other researchers conclude the drop is not because fewer illegal immigrants are coming in, but because more are leaving.

'The illegal population is falling significantly,' said Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates reducing immigration. 'The only way for that to happen is for a lot more people to be going home.'

The government demographers reached the same exact estimate 10.8 million illegal immigrants nationwide that Camarota concluded in his own demographic study last year.

But while most researchers cite the recession as the cause for the decline, Camarota said border enforcement plays an important part.

'The decline in the population begins before the economy turns down,' Camarota said. 'That suggests that, at least initially, it's because of the stepped-up enforcement that increased during the end of the Bush administration.'

Other analysts disagree, saying slower migration flows are a worldwide trend associated with the down economy.

'It's really driven by fewer people coming in,' said Jeane Batalova, a researcher with the Migration Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.


U.S. illegal immigrant population declines for second year
The Washington Post, February 10, 2010

Illegal Immigrant Population Drops
By Julia Preston
The New York Times, February 9, 2010

Fewer unauthorized immigrants in U.S. in 2009, government says
The CNN News, February 10, 2010

DHS: The number of illegal immigrants in US fell
The Associated Press, February 9, 2010

US: 7 percent fewer illegal immigrants last year
Agence France Presse, February 9, 2010