11 September 2010
Between March 2007 and March 2009, about 300,000 people a year entered the United States illegally. That may sound like a lot, but it's actually more than a 60% drop (actually about 64%) in the number of undocumented workers entering the country. Between March 2000 and March 2005 the number was about 850,000. The total number of undocumented workers in the U.S. has also dropped by about a million workers -- from 12 million to around 11 million.
These numbers are according to a new study released by the Pew Hispanic Center (a nonpartisan research center). But the decrease in immigration is also backed up by recent research by the Migration Research Center at the University of California in San Diego.
I'm sure right-wing politicians and hate groups would like to credit the drop to their efforts to wall off and increase police, Border Patrol (and now Army) patrols near the border. They are still trying to spread fear and further militarize our border with Mexico (although they seem fine with leaving our border with Canada open, which is longer and much easier to cross illegally).
But the truth is that the increased presence along the southern border has had little (or nothing) to do with the drop in the illegal entrance of undocumented immigrants. When people really want to get into this country they can find a way. Our immense borders, both land and sea, are far too extensive to completely block off.
No, the primary reason for the sharp drop in illegal immigration is the recession. These people are coming for only one reason -- to make enough money to decently support themselves and their families (both here and back in their country of origin). But if there are no jobs to be had in this country, then there is no reason to try and enter this country -- especially considering how difficult and expensive it is to do.
Braulio Gonzalez, a day laborer from Guatemala, says, "People don't want to come now; they know the economy is bad." Wayne Cornelius, co-director of the Migration Research Center, agrees saying, "What has changed drastically is the demand for Mexican labor in the U.S. economy." He says potential migrants today are "two times less likely" to plan a move to the U.S. than in the pre-recession year of 2006.
And it looks like the illegal immigration may continue to drop because there aren't going to be many jobs for quite a while. The Gallup organization says that the unemployment figure for August was 9.3% -- up from 8.9% in July. But the better measure, even though it doesn't count the long-term unemployed who have virtually given up, is the underemployment figure (the unemployed combined with part-time workers who can't find full-time work) which is now at 18.6% for August -- up from 18.4% for July.
Call me crazy but I much preferred the days when we had a booming economy, even if it brought many undocumented workers across the border. It's much better to have jobs for everyone (including undocumented workers) than the current mess we're in, where millions of Americans can't find jobs. The Republicans did drastically cut the number of illegal immigrants, but they did it by trashing our economy and throwing millions of Americans out of work.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin