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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Flow of Illegal Immigrants Tapers Off

October 03, 2008 03:11 PM
by Rachel Balik
The number of illegal immigrants entering the country has decreased dramatically and is now lower than the number of legal immigrants entering the country.

U.S. Sees Decline in Illegal Immigrants

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The Pew Hispanic Center has reported that the number of illegal immigrants entering the country has declined severely over the second half of the last decade. From 2000 to 2004, an average of 800,000 immigrants entered the country, but from 2005 to 2008, that number decreased to 500,000. The number of legal immigrants entering the country, which has remained constant, now exceeds the number of illegal immigrants entering the country. Since the Census Bureau is unable to count illegal immigrants, researchers derived the number by subtracting legal immigrants from the total number of foreigners.

Researchers are still speculating as to what would cause this decline. Although the growth of the illegal immigrant population has slowed, its actual size continues to increase.

Opinion and Analysis: Explaining the Decline

The Pew Hispanic Center released a report in September stating that Hispanics felt conditions had worsened for them in America. Many immigrants, who make up 54 percent of the Latino population, feel that there are fewer opportunities in the United States than in previous years. The overall unemployment rate is on the rise, and tighter immigration policies are making life more difficult for all Latinos, even those who were born here. They have reported difficulty finding and keeping jobs and housing, and some also report they have been stopped and asked for documentation.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed experts who named a variety of possible reasons why fewer illegal immigrants would try to enter the country. A few cited America’s weak economy and dwindling labor force. Typically, demographers and labor experts attributed the drop more to concerns about getting jobs rather than concerns about getting deported or harassed; as one UC Berkeley professor told the Chronicle, “People are less likely to risk everything to get here if they can’t get a job.” However, the Pew Center did note a correlation between those who were negative about conditions for Latinos and those who feared the effects of tighter immigration policies.

Related Topics: Difficulties for Immigrants

As many of those polled told the Pew Center, many immigrants struggle with discrimination. In Hazelton, Penn., where immigration laws are particularly strict, the ACLU had to fight on behalf on a couple who could not get married there, because the prospective groom was unable to supply appropriate documentation. Jose Arias-Maravill, who was not a U.S. citizen, wanted to marry Heather Buck, a U.S. citizen and the mother of his child, before he was forced to return to Mexico. Dorothy Stankovic, the Register of Wills for Luzerne County, would not issue a marriage license, because she had a policy of refusing a marriage license to anyone who lacked a green card or valid visa. The ACLU sued Stankovic, a federal court ruled that the policy was unconstitutional and the couple were ultimately married.

Reference: Pew Hispanic Center and Immigration

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