- WASHINGTON -- A new analysis
of monthly Census Bureau data shows a significant decline in the number
of less-educated Hispanic immigrants. The report is the first to show systematic
evidence that the illegal population is decreasing. There is good evidence
that recent immigration enforcement efforts are a key factor causing the
- The report, entitled "Homeward Bound: Recent Immigration
Enforcement and the Decline in the Illegal Alien Population," is available
at the Center for Immigration Studies web site www.cis.org
- Among the findings:
- · Our best estimate is that the illegal immigrant
population has declined by 11 percent through May of this year after hitting
a peak in August 2007.
- · The implied decline in the illegal population
is 1.3 million since last summer, from 12.5 in August 2007 to 11.2 million
in May 2008.
- · The estimated decline of the illegal population
is at least 7 times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by
the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to
illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own.
- · One indication that stepped-up enforcement is
responsible for the decline is that only the illegal immigrant population
seems to be effected; the legal immigrant population continues to grow.
- · Another indication enforcement is causing the
decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there
was a significant rise in their unemployment rate.
- · The importance of enforcement is also suggested
by the fact that the current decline is already significantly larger than
the decline during the last recession.
- · While the decline began before unemployment
rose, the evidence indicates that unemployment has increased among illegal
immigrants, so the economic slowdown is likely to be at least partly responsible
for the decline in the number of illegal immigrants.
- · There is good evidence that the illegal population
rose last summer while Congress was considering legalizing illegal immigrants.
When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to fall
- Discussion: These findings are consistent with anecdotal
evidence. They are also consistent with data showing a fall off in remittances
sent home by immigrants. And they are in line with a drop in border apprehensions.
While the evidence indicates that stepped-up immigration enforcement has
played an important role in causing the decline, the economic downturn
is also likely to be encouraging illegal immigrants to return home. The
decline in the illegal population, whatever the cause, seems to directly
challenge the argument that illegal aliens are so firmly attached to their
lives in this country that it is not possible to induce many of them to
return home. If the current trend were sustained, it could cut the illegal
population in half within five years.
- There is no way to know whether the current trend will
continue. Future enforcement efforts as well as the state of the economy
will likely determine if the number of illegal immigrants continues to
drop. Both presidential candidates have recently stated their strong commitment
to legalizing those in the country illegally. Pronouncements of this kind
may have consequences. When Congress was considering legalizing illegal
immigrants last summer, there is evidence that the illegal population grew.
When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to decline
rapidly. It may be that the repeated promises of legalization by both candidates
in recent weeks will encourage more illegal immigrants to enter the country
or encourage those already in the country, who might otherwise leave, to
stay in the hopes of being awarded legal status.
- Methodology: This study uses monthly data from the Current
Population Survey collected by the Census Bureau. The Department of Homeland
Security, the former INS and other outside research organizations have
used Census Bureau data to estimate the illegal immigrant population. We
examine trends in the number of foreign-born less-educated young Hispanics.
Prior research indicates that 80 percent of these individuals are in the
country illegally. We estimate the range for the decline in the illegal
immigrant population is 9 to 14 percent, with 11 percent as the most likely
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- Contact: Steven Camarota
- (202) 466-8185 ·
- The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent
research institute which examines the impact of immigration on the United