The Department of Homeland security provided a keyhole of hopeful light for the reform crowd on Tuesday. They published "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009" which was written by Michael Hoefer, Nancy Rytina, and Bryan C. Baker.
The report provides estimates of the number of illegal -- they use the term "unauthorized" -- immigrants residing in the United States as of January 2009 by period of entry, region and country of origin, state of residence, age, and gender. It also provides a favorable environment for the comprehensive immigration reform movement in that it shows that there are now less illegal immigrants residing in the US than there once were. This lessening will surely be attributed to better practices in DHS' enforcement of existing laws, though they do also credit the Great Recession.
The bottom line is that true reform was not going to be a palatable concept to the illegal-immigration-is-killing-this-country crowd while illegal immigration was booming. The rallying cry on that side back in 2005 when the Sensenbrenner bill was introduced was -- and continued to be - that you cannot talk about human reform and dealing equitably with those already here when the borders were still bleeding illegal immigrants daily. I always thought that was a good point that never got the attention it deserved.
At any rate, as you'll see from DHS' report -- whether for enforcement climate reasons or economic reasons -- illegal immigration has slowly abated and this might provide an opportunity for productive reform talks between both sides of the aisle.
Here are the items I've selected as the report's highlights:
Between 2000 and 2009, the unauthorized population grew by 27 percent. Of all unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2009, 63 percent entered before 2000, and 62 percent were from Mexico
Between January 2008 and January 2009, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States decreased seven percent from 11.6 million to 10.8 million.
Here are state stats:
Between 2000 and 2007, the unauthorized population grew by 3.3 million from 8.5 million to 11.8 million. The number of unauthorized residents declined by 1.0 million between 2007 and 2009, coincident with the U.S. economic downturn. The overall annual average increase in the unauthorized population during the 2000-2009 period was 250,000.
Here is country of origin info:
The unauthorized resident population is the remainder or "residual" after estimates of the legally resident foreign-born population - legal permanent residents (LPRs), asylees, refugees, and nonimmigrants - are subtracted from estimates of the total foreign-born population
Here are demographic details:
The unauthorized resident immigrant population is defined as all foreign-born non-citizens who are not legal residents. Most unauthorized residents either entered the United States without inspection or were admitted temporarily and stayed past the date they were required to leave. Unauthorized immigrants applying for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 245(i) are unauthorized until they have been granted LPR status, even though they may have been authorized to work. Persons who are beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)--an estimated several hundred thousand--are not technically unauthorized but were excluded from the legally resident immigrant population because data are unavailable in sufficient detail to estimate this population.
DHS has said that from now moving forward, this report will be updated and made available annually based on "the [annual] foreign-born population collected in the American Community Survey and on the estimated lawfully resident foreign-born population derived from various administrative data sources."
We'll stay tuned. Until then, the full report can be found here (PDF).
Esther J. Cepeda writes about immigration, demographics, and much, much more on www.600words.com
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