For another year, researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center are telling us that the undocumented, or “illegal,” population of immigrants across the U.S. is on the decline. What they can’t say for sure is exactly why.
Is it that more undocumented immigrants, frustrated by the economic slowdown and lack of jobs in the once “green pastures” of America, are returning to their homeland? Or are they finally becoming legal residents, thanks to a clearing up of the bureaucratic backlog in the processing system that is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?
It is possibly, as the researchers themselves surmise, a combination of factors, especially when many European immigrants, including Poles, are returning to Europe because under the EU agreement, they can work and live anywhere legally in that region as Europeans.
But what is documented is that the unauthorized population of immigrants in the U.S. now accounts for 28 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population as of last year, a decline by a whopping 31 percent from 2007.
The number of undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean, as well as those from Latin America, has also dropped. Titled “U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade,” the report, released last Wednesday, said the number of undocumented migrants in the U.S. from the Caribbean is now at 350,000, down from 22 percent last year.
Overall, the flow of illegal immigrants from Latin America into the United States has plunged, falling from around 850,000 per year early in the last decade to around 300,000 by last year.
The nearly two-thirds decline in numbers of undocumented entering the United States has brought with it the first significant drop in the population of unauthorized U.S. residents in two decades–down from a peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009.
Mexicans, however, remain the biggest group of unauthorized migrants, making up around 60 percent of all illegal immigrants living in the United States. However, their numbers peaked in 2007 at 7 million, and since then have leveled off, the report found, while the influx of new undocumented Mexican migrants has slowed significantly in recent years.
Not counting Florida and Virginia, the unauthorized immigrant population also declined in the area encompassing the rest of the South Atlantic division that extends between Delaware and Georgia.
In addition to the decline in Nevada, three other mountain states–Arizona, Colorado and Utah–experienced a decrease in their combined unauthorized immigrant population from 2008 to 2009.
Overall, there were 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009–or just 5.1 percent of the total.
So what do these numbers tell us? It means that unlike what right-wing conservatives would like us to believe, undocumented immigrants are not taking over America and stealing jobs from Americans. As they say, the truth is in the numbers and the lie many have been fed, including in Arizona, has been exposed.
Now it’s time to grant the dwindling population of the undocumented a work permit and travel document so they can live, work and travel legally.
The writer is founder of CaribWorldNews.com, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.