For the third year in a row, the undocumented immigrant population is reportedly on a decline. In 2007, DHS estimated that 11.8 million undocumented immigrants lived in the United States. The estimate fell to 11.6 million in 2008 and now the Department of Homeland Security reports that the number has fallen further to 10.8 million.
Statistical basis for the various estimates? Estimates from the American Community Surveys (ACS) that DHS used to subtract the estimated number of legal residents from the estimated foreign-born population to arrive at the numbers.
Jeffrey Passel, a demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center, says that the undocumented immigrant population has been declining since 2006, but questions the reported sharp drop because the ACS has changed the way it surveys immigration.
Even though the methodology is questionable, nativists are going to use the numbers to hail enforcement and mass deportation policies, while immigrant rights advocates would highlight the bad economy as the real reason for the drop.
The most interesting aspect of the report is that unauthorized immigrants from Mexico increased only by 2% between 2000 to 2009 while the undocumented immigrants from India, despite the reverse brain drain, increased by 64%. Maybe the United States needs to focus less on border wars and more on enforcing visa regulations and fixing retrogression.
The bottom line is that millions of undocumented immigrants still live in and contribute to American society. The new figures still reflect a broken immigration system and the need for immigration reform. It’s better to address the issue now than to wait till the economy rebounds — along with the number of unauthorized migrants.
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