Number of US illegal immigrants from Mexico drops
BY HOPE YEN Associated Press
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
4/24/12 at 6:14 AM
WASHINGTON - The number of Mexican immigrants living illegally in the U.S. has dropped significantly for the first time in decades, a dramatic shift as many illegal workers, already in the U.S. and seeing few job opportunities, return to Mexico.
An analysis of census data from the U.S. and Mexican governments details the movement to and from Mexico, a nation accounting for nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. It comes amid renewed debate over U.S. immigration policy as the Supreme Court hears arguments this week on Arizona's tough immigration law.
Roughly 6.1 million illegal Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S. last year, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday.
Much of the drop in illegal immigrants is due to the persistently weak U.S. economy, which has shrunk construction and service-sector jobs attractive to Mexican workers following the housing bust.
But increased deportations, heightened U.S. patrols and violence along the border also have played a role, as well as demographic changes, such as Mexico's declining birth rate.
In all, the Mexican-born population in the U.S. last year - legal and illegal - fell to 12 million, marking an end to an immigration boom dating back to the 1970s, when foreign-born residents from Mexico stood at 760,000. The 2007 peak was 12.6 million.
Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew who co-wrote the analysis, said Mexican immigration may never return to its height during the mid-decade housing and construction boom, even with the U.S. economy recovering.
Original Print Headline: Huge drop in illegal immigrants seen