August 11, 2008

Population of illegal immigrants grows in some border states

Study finds 11 percent drop in illegal immigration

By Ines Min

A study released recently that showed an 11 percent decrease in the U.S. illegal immigrant population has raised questions from illegal immigration opponents and immigrants' rights activists.

According to the report[ Homeward Bound ]released last week by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based nonprofit research organization that has been criticized in the media for being anti-immigration, the immigrant population has decreased because of stricter immigration laws and a slowing economy.

The report's findings are disappointing for groups such as the American Friends Service Committee, an organization that promotes equality in the workplace for immigrants. Josefina Castillo, who is program coordinator for the Austin office of the organization, acknowledged that the study recognized the difficult challenge presented by attempting to estimate the immigrant population, but said the variety of ethnicities within the population makes it difficult to accurately account for all the immigrants.

The immigrant community is far too complex to make any generalizations about changing population sizes, Castillo said.

"I think this unifying way of looking at [the illegal immigrants] as a coherent population also deviates [from] the dialogue when you want to talk about statistics and truth," Castillo said.

Castillo said the status of the U.S. economy is the major determining factor of migration into or out of the U.S.

"I think that in the same way that some groups do not make the link between the economy and migration, the same can be said that we cannot make immediate links between enforcement and migration," she said.

Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee supports the center's research with news articles collected over the past few years echoing law enforcement's role in the decreasing population. The Web-based group has the largest archive of articles and statistics in existence about illegal immigration, said organization president William Gheen.

The committee's perspective is reinforced by more than 100 news articles collected by the committee, which Gheen said prove that, among other things, amnesty for illegal immigrants is not a viable solution for reducing the influx of illegal immigration into the U.S.

According to the study, illegal immigration overall is decreasing nationwide, but Gheen said some states such as California and Texas have increasing numbers of illegal immigrants. Ghenn said more relaxed policies in border states make them more attractive to undocumented workers living in states with stricter enforcement.

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