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Number of illegal immigrants falls 21% in Az

First drop in undocumented immigrants since 1990

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has declined considerably since 2000-2005, according to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The number of illegal immigrants dropped for the first time since Pew began tracking in 1990.

From 2000 to 2005, an average of 850,000 illegal immigrants entered the U.S. each year. From 2005 to 2007, the number fell to 550,000 entries annually. The number dropped to 300,000 a year from 2007-2009.

Pew estimates that there were 375,000 people in Arizona who overstayed their visas or entered the country illegally last year. In 2008, there were 475,000.

While Arizona's figures dropped by 21 percent, the national number was steadier at 4.3 percent.

This sharp decline has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.-to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. The decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades.

Besides Arizona, other Western states saw their population of unauthorized immigrants fall; Colorado, Nevada and Utah all experienced a decrease in their combined unauthorized immigrant population from 2008 to 2009.

Mexico accounted for 60% of unauthorized immigrants in 2009, or 6.7 million people. Other Latin American nations accounted for 20% of the total, or 2.2 million people. South and East Asia accounted for 11% of the total, or 1.2 million people.

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Even though the size of the Mexican unauthorized population living in the United States has not changed significantly since 2007, the inflows from that country have fallen off sharply in recent years. 

According to the center's estimates, an average of 150,000 unauthorized immigrants from Mexico arrived annually during the March 2007 to March 2009 period—70% below the annual average of 500,000 that prevailed during the first half of the decade.

The numbers are based on Census Bureau figures from March 2008 and don't reflect any changes resulting from the controversy over SB 1070.

The Department of Homeland Security claims its increased manpower and resources is a major reason for the decline, reports the Texas Tribune:

“This administration’s unprecedented commitment of manpower, technology and infrastructure to the Southwest border has been a major factor in this dramatic drop in illegal crossings,” said DHS Deputy Press Secretary Matt Chandler. “We are cracking down on employers who hire illegal labor, seizures of illicit goods are up across the board, and criminal alien removals are at an all-time high.”

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jonathan mcintosh/Flickr

A road sign just north of the border near Tijuana.

Arizona's illegal immigrant population

  • 1990 - 90,000
  • 2000 - 300,000
  • 2005 - 450,000
  • 2008 - 475,000
  • 2009 - 375,000

Report findings

  • Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 28% of the nation’s foreign-born population in 2009, a decline from 31% in 2007.
  • Mexico accounted for 60% of unauthorized immigrants in 2009, or 6.7 million people. Other Latin American nations accounted for 20% of the total, or 2.2 million people. South and East Asia accounted for 11% of the total, or 1.2 million people.
  • In 2009, 59% of unauthorized immigrants resided in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and New Jersey. However, the share living in those states has declined from 80% in 1990, as unauthorized immigrants have dispersed to new settlement areas.
  • Nearly half of unauthorized immigrants living in the country in 2009—47%, or 5.2 million people—arrived in 2000 or later.
  • The number of male unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 6.3 million and declined to 5.8 million in 2009. The number of female unauthorized immigrants, 4.2 million in 2009, is roughly the same as it was in 2007.
  • The number of children who are unauthorized, 1.1 million in 2009, declined slightly over the decade. By contrast, the population of U.S.-born children with at least one unauthorized parent nearly doubled from 2000 to 2009, when they numbered 4 million.
  • There were 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009, or 5.1% of the total. The size of the unauthorized labor force peaked in 2007 and declined in both 2008 and 2009. There were 7 million unauthorized immigrants employed in March 2009.
  • States with the largest shares of immigrants in the labor force are Nevada (9.4%), California (9.3%), Texas (8.7%) and New Jersey (8.7%).