Friday, October 3, 2008

Number of Illegal Immigrants to U.S. Is Down

Immigration: Enforcement does work. If it was just a bad economy the numbers would not be so dramatic.

Amid a sluggish economy and stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws, the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States each year has dropped precipitously since the first half of this decade, according to a study released yesterday. The rate of legal immigration remained steady, meanwhile, so that legal arrivals now outnumber illicit ones for the first time in a decade.

The report by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center offers the most detailed picture of the illegal immigrant population to date, and its findings are in line with trends identified in less comprehensive recent analyses by the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that advocates stricter limits on immigration.

The Pew report found that the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has declined from an average of 800,000 a year in 2000-04 to 500,000 a year in 2005-08.

By contrast, the flow of immigrants who are legal permanent residents has remained unchanged at 650,000 a year and has exceeded the number of illegal immigrant arrivals since last year.

The study also found a major slowdown in the growth of the illegal immigrant population that reflects additions to that population and subtractions because of people leaving the country, dying or changing to legal status. From 2000 through 2005, the illegal immigrant population rose by an average of 525,000 people a year. Since then, it has averaged increases of 275,000 a year. Over the past year, little to no increase appears to have occurred.

"This was a population that was growing very rapidly and substantially for at least 15 years, and the growth has essentially come to a halt," said Jeffrey S. Passel, co-author of the study.

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