Good News: Illegal Immigrants Leaving

July 31, 2008

The linked article is from the Center for Immigration Studies.  It’s a report of their findings regarding changes in the immigrant population.  It concludes that, based upon census results that find that the population of illiterate Hispanic immigrants is shrinking, that it is the population of illegal immigrants that is actually declining, a reasonable assumption.  The CIS is a an organization that is dedicated to influencing national policy toward reduced immigration, so one could argue that this is a self-serving report.  However, one could also argue that such a report tends to diminish concern about illegal immigration; thus, it wouldn’t be in the interest of CIS to publish it if it were not true.  So, all things considered, I tend to believe the report as a factual study.  Decide for yourself.  It it’s true, this is indeed very good news and is solid evidence that enforcement is working and that it needs to be sustained and even intensified. 

The following are the key findings of the study:

  • Our best estimate is that the illegal immigrant population has declined by 11 percent through May 2008 after hitting a peak in August 2007.
  • The implied decline in the illegal population is 1.3 million since last summer, from 12.5 million to 11.2 million today.
  • The estimated decline of the illegal population is at least seven times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own.
  • One indication that stepped-up enforcement is responsible for the decline is that only the illegal immigrant population seems to be affected; the legal immigrant population continues to grow.
  • Another indication enforcement is causing the decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in their unemployment rate.
  • The importance of enforcement is also suggested by the fact that the current decline is already significantly larger than the decline during the last recession, and officially the country has not yet entered a recession.
  • While the decline began before unemployment rose, the evidence indicates that unemployment has increased among illegal immigrants, so the economic slow-down is likely to be at least partly responsible for the decline in the number of illegal immigrants.
  • There is good evidence that the illegal population grew last summer while Congress was considering legalizing illegal immigrants. When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to fall almost immediately.
  • If the decline were sustained, it would reduce the illegal population by one-half in the next five years.