The flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States has slowed in the past three years, a major think tank reported Thursday.
The Pew Hispanic Center report cites no statistical reasons for the decreased rate. It notes the U.S. economy has suffered a downturn and greater immigration enforcement measures have been enacted, which a Pew survey “indicates has generated worry among many Hispanics.”
According to the center’s estimates, 11.9 million undocumented immigrants were living in the United States as of March. There were 11.1 million in 2005 and 8.4 million in 2000, the group said.
“Although the undocumented population has been rising, its net growth has slowed substantially since 2005, compared with earlier in the decade,” the report states.
According to the report, from 2000 to early 2005, the unauthorized immigrant population grew by an annual net average of about 525,000. The growth pattern started changing substantially in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, annual growth has averaged 275,000 undocumented immigrants. See how the numbers stack up »
“With the drop in the numbers of illegals coming, we now have more legal immigrants coming than illegals coming,” Jeffrey S. Passel, the study’s lead researcher and author, said in an interview.
Unauthorized immigrants continue to make up 30 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population of more than 39 million people, the study says.
Mexicans account for 58 percent of all illegal immigrants in the United States, the study says, adding that no other country has a double-digit share.
Pew estimates there were 7 million illegal Mexican immigrants living in the United States in March, up considerably from 4.8 million during the 2000 Census. Growth has leveled off since 2007.
The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States from Latin American countries other than Mexico grew from 1.8 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2008, a nearly 45 percent increase.
“The other big difference over the past couple of years is that we’ve seen greater enforcement in the interior, at the work sites,” [Passel] said.
“Numerically, there may not have been a big impact in terms of the numbers of people arrested and deported, but it’s been very high profile. There’s strong communication between the United States and the home country, so word gets back.”
Among the study’s other findings:
o More than 40 percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants—5.3 million people—have arrived since the decade began.