[Guest post by DRJ]
The Washington Post reports on a study that concludes illegal immigration into the US is down 10% over the past year, especially among less educated 18 to 40-year-old Hispanic immigrants, and it’s apparently due in part to stepped-up government enforcement and other incentives:
“The evidence is consistent with the idea that at least initially more robust enforcement caused the number of illegal immigrants to decline significantly,” said Steven A. Camarota, one of the study’s authors. “Some people seem to think illegals are so permanently anchored in the United States that there is no possibility of them leaving. . . . This suggests they’re not correct. Some significant share might respond to changing incentives and leave.
There is general agreement among demographers that illegal immigration is declining but the experts do not agree on why this has occurred. The study indicates the decline in less educated Hispanic immigrants began after Congress abandoned immigration reform while the number of educated non-Hispanic immigrants continued to rise. The study concludes immigrants changed their behavior in response to the failure of legalization legislation:
“Even more contentious is the question of what, if anything, the study’s findings indicate about the impact that recent national and local immigration policies may have had on the size of the illegal immigrant population. Since December, the unemployment rate of less-educated working-age Hispanics has risen from 4.93 percent to 7.06 percent, making it that much more difficult to determine whether the continued decline in their population during this period was the result of anything beyond basic economics.
But [study authors] Camarota and Jensenius suggest that the six-month decline that occurred after the failure of the legalization legislation and before the rise of these workers’ unemployment rate is one of several examples of a link between immigration policy and immigrant choices. They note, for instance, that starting in May 2007, when Congress’s consideration of the legalization plan began receiving widespread media attention, the number of less-educated, working-aged Hispanics began to rise.
“I call it the amnesty hump,” said Camarota. Though he noted that the population increase during this period may not have been statistically significant, “it seems that what was happening was that fewer illegal immigrants left than might otherwise have done so because they were hoping to qualify for legalization.”
Experts also debate whether there are fewer illegal immigrants in the US because not as many have immigrated or because more have left. The study’s authors acknowledge that the answer to that question is unclear based solely on Census data, but they believe “if less-educated Hispanic adults were not leaving in greater numbers than before, their total population would merely grow more slowly, not decline steeply.”
Finally, most of the immigrants who left did so voluntarily since “only 285,000 immigrants were removed from within the United States in 2007 — and many of those were formerly legal immigrants who lost their status after committing a crime.”
Which reminds me: Deport the Criminals First.