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Pew Hispanic Center: California leads in illegal immigrant population, though national trend shows drop since 2007

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

The latest estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center found that much of the country's 2010 unauthorized immigrant population remained virtually unchanged from 2009. California, however, remained at the top of the pack, being home to the nation's highest population of illegal immigrant residents and laborers. 

     "California has by far the largest unauthorized-immigrant population (2.55 million). It also is among the states where unauthorized immigrants constitute the largest shares of the overall populations," the report stated.

The Pew study found that unauthorized immigrants constituted 6.8% of the overall population in the state. While unauthorized immigrants are spread all throughout each of the 50 States, California is among the few states where they live in heavily concentrated amounts.

The dozen states with the largest number of unauthorized immigrant residents, the report stated, account for more than 75% of the illegal immigrant population in the United States. 23% is in California alone.

At 9.7%, California also finished second to Nevada's 10% for shares of unauthorized immigrants employed in the state's workforce. However, California also had the largest number of people as employees in the state's work force with 1.85 million. States following California's vast unauthorized workforce are Texas, Florida, and New York.

What's truly significant about the latest numbers is that illegal immigration in the United States, it's estimated in the report, has actually dropped within the past few years and is now steadily declining.

     "There were 3.5 million authorized immigrants living in the United States in 1990, a number that grew to 8.4 million in 2000. The population leveled off for two years and grew steadily from 2003-2007, when it peaked at 12 million. From 2007-2009, it shrank by 8%," the report said.

Pew's estimates are actually quite consistent with remarks that Department of Homeland Security head, Janet Napolitano, made regarding the Obama Administration's cranked-up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. While the Great Recession may have had a hand in curtailing illegal immigration, Pew doesn't say that this was a definite factor. They do indicate, however, that the economic downturn is a strong possibility based on past trends.

     "This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009 that was the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth," the report said.

While some Republicans are still considering the birthright citizenship amendment to the Constitution, Pew's study also demonstrates that the number of anchor babies has actually steadily dropped after 2004. 

     "An analysis of the year of entry of unauthorized immigrant parents of babies born in 2009 indicates that 61% arrived before 2004, 30% arrived from 2004-2007, and 9% arrived from 2008-2010," it said.

The number of anchor babies in 2009 was 350,000. This is, according to the report, almost the same as it was a year earlier in 2008.

These latest estimated numbers wouldn't necessarily dispel the Republican case for reforming the 14th amendment ad getting a handle on the flawed social welfare system provided to illegals in places like Los Angeles County. However, it does hurt their case when they're hyping up the invasion of illegal immigrants with anchor babies as being a bigger deal than the statistics portray.

This doesn't mean that illegal immigration is no longer a problem. Cracks remain in the system because some are still finding ways of entering. While it's not realistic to expect that the border will be completely sealed, by the very admission of Homeland Security, improvements in much needed enforcement can always be made, ensuring that there are fewer options for the perpetrators of illegal activity to exploit. 

There's also the situation on the home front. One of the matters addressed in the Pew Center's report is how much a part of the American work force unauthorized immigrants have become.

As the Republican Party has proposed that the 112th Congress tackle such programs as E-Verify, both chambers of Congress should work with President Obama to continue improving employment safeguards, thus freeing up the opportunity of the American Dream for legal immigrants.

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