Illegal Immigrants Statistics Show Second Straight Annual Decline25 Feb 2010
The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, recently released a report showing that the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in the United States has declined for the second straight year. According to DHS, the number of unauthorized residents in the U.S. plunged from 11.6 million, as of January 2008, to 10.8 million in January of 2009, a drop that coincided with the economic recession here. [See Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009, by Michael Hoefer et al., DHS Office of Immigration Statistics.] This continues a trend that became apparent in the January 2008 statistics, which indicated a small decline in the illegal immigrant population, compared to the high of 11.8 million reported in 2007.
The findings varied considerably across the many countries of origin represented in the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants; for instance, the number of illegal immigrants from China declined precipitously, to an estimated 120,000, compared to about 290,000 in 2007. During the same period, the number of illegal residents from Honduras climbed by an estimated 20,000 per year. Population trends likewise varied considerably across the states receiving unauthorized immigrants, with steep declines in Florida from 2007 (960,000) to 2009 (720,000) and New Jersey, which dropped from 470,000 in 2007 to 360,000 by 2009. California and Arizona also experienced significant declines during this period – losing an estimated 240,000 and 70,000, respectively – while Texas lost only an estimated 30,000 of its illegal immigrant population over the same interval.
Unfortunately, these studies take a considerable amount of time to compile, so we won’t see the 2010 numbers until early next year. It will be interesting to see how current trends play out, amid ongoing economic difficulties and some signs of a nascent recovery. Regardless of what the 2010 numbers show when they are released next year, one thing is certain: we should expect a new wave of illegal immigration as soon as the economy rebounds and there are jobs to be had. The time to prepare for this trend is now, when the pressure is off. Congress has a breather right now, and it may not last much longer. It would be a shame to squander this opportunity to reform our immigration system in 2010; once these statistical trends reverse, and the number of illegal immigrants is climbing again, it will be all the more difficult to get the rational and humane reform that is so desperately needed. The likelihood of this happening in 2010 is open to question, but thankfully not yet out of the question.