WASHINGTON (AP) ó New census data released Thursday affirm a clear and
sustained drop in illegal immigration, ending more than a decade of
The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. dropped to an estimated 11.1
million last year from a peak of 12 million in 2007, part of an overall
waning of Hispanic immigration. For the first time since 1910, Hispanic
immigration last year was topped by immigrants from Asia.
Demographers say illegal Hispanic immigration ó 80 percent of all illegal
immigration comes from Mexico and Latin America ó isnít likely to approach
its mid-2000 peak again, due in part to a weakened U.S. economy and stronger
enforcement but also a graying of the Mexican population.
The finding suggests an uphill battle for the Republicans, who passed
legislation in the House last week that would extend citizenship to a
limited pool of foreign students with advanced degrees but who are sharply
divided on whether to pursue broader immigration measures.
In all, the biggest surge of immigration in modern U.S. history ultimately
may be recorded as occurring in the mid-1990s to early 2000s, yielding
illegal residents who now have been settled in the U.S. for 10 years or
more. They include migrants who arrived here as teens and are increasingly
at risk of ďaging outĒ of congressional proposals such as the DREAM Act that
offer a pathway to citizenship for younger adults.
The numbers are largely based on the Census Bureauís Current Population
Survey through March 2011. Because the Census Bureau does not ask people
about their immigration status, Passel derived estimates on illegal
immigrants largely by subtracting the estimated legal immigrant population
from the total foreign-born population. The numbers are also supplemented
with material from William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution and Mark
Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, who reviewed data released
Thursday from the Censusí American Community Survey.
The data showed that 11.1 million, or 28 percent, of the foreign-born
population in the U.S. consists of illegal immigrants, virtually unchanged
since 2009 and roughly equal to the level of 2005. An additional 12.2
million foreign-born people, 31 percent, are legal permanent residents with
green cards. And 15.1 million, or 37 percent, are naturalized U.S. citizens.
Fewer Mexican workers are entering the U.S., while many of those immigrants
already here are opting to return to their homeland, resulting in zero net
migration from Mexico.
In 2007, legal and illegal immigrants made up equally large shares of the
foreign-born population, at 31 percent, due to ballooning numbers of new
unauthorized migrants seeking U.S. construction and related jobs during the
mid-2000s housing boom. Naturalized U.S. citizens then represented 35
Broken down by geography and race, roughly half of all states last year
posted declines or no change in their numbers of foreign-born Hispanics,
including big immigrant states such as California and New York as well as
economically hard hit areas in Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina, which
previously had seen gains.
Foreign-born Asians were a bigger source of population gain than Hispanic
immigrants in California, New York, Virginia, Illinois and New Jersey. Newly
moving into suburban communities, the Asian population spread out more
across the southeastern U.S. and Texas, increasing their share in 93 percent
of the nationís metropolitan areas.
As a whole, foreign-born residents are slowly graying, with 44 percent now
age 45 or older. They are more likely than in 2007 to be enrolled in college
or graduate school (39 percent, up from 32 percent) and to be single (17
percent married, down from 22 percent).
Births to immigrant mothers also are on the decline, driving the overall
U.S. birth rate last year to the lowest in records dating back to 1920.