Legal immigration to the U.S. has slowed considerably since the Great Recession began, according to a newly released report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.
While previous years had seen net migration gains for the U.S. on the order of 5 percent, the 2009 fiscal year only saw a net migration increase of 2 percent, or approximately 1.13 million now permanent-resident immigrants.
Population movements appear largely tied to immediate economic opportunity, meaning the more opportunity there is in a country, the more immigrants will come. But, as the Wall Street Journal reported at the beginning of the Great Recession, the U.S. now has fewer opportunities for immigrants. Immigrants who worked in construction, hotels and other blue-collar jobs were badly hit at the outset of the current recession, while remedial jobs such as gardening remained secure.
This comes on the heels of another report, by Pew Hispanic Center, which showed the illegal Mexican population in the U.S. has declined since 2008 and that illegal border crossings and visa violators have declined to fewer than 100,000 in 2010, reports The New York Times. Between 2000 and 2004, illegal border crossings and visa-violators reached a rate of roughly 525,000 annually.
The OECD has chalked up much of the decline in migration rates to the present economic struggles of the U.S, with conditions in Mexico having improved considerably over the previous decade. According to a UNICEF report, quality of education services, particularly for pre-school aged children, may have been improving in Mexico as early as 2007.
How this will affect the U.S. economy is yet to be seen. Last year, Newsweek reported that 74 percent of Americans said immigrants hurt the economy, but most economists and many policy makers disagree.
The U.S. immigrant population has historically lead the way in entrepreneurship and economic innovation. Firms such as Yahoo, eBay and Google were founded by immigrants, as pointed out by the Wall Street Journal.
Some are looking to immigrants as a wave to boost a stagnating recovery. Indeed, New York City Michael Bloomberg and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will be attending a conference advocating for increased migration of immigrants to Detroit and other depressed areas in Michigan, according to Detroit News.
According to the OECD, foreign born men in the United States actually had a lower rate of unemployment at 10 percent in 2009 than native born men, at 11.3 percent the same year. This marks the second year during the previous decade when foreign born males had a higher rate of employment than their native born counterparts. This first happened in 2005.