The illegal immigrant population in North Carolina has dropped 13 percent since 2007, according to a new report released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies.
The state numbers mirror the national average, which declined 13.7 percent from a peak of 12.5 million illegal immigrants in the summer of 2007 to 10.8 million in the first quarter of 2009, according to the center’s analysis of Census data.
The center's analysis is similar to other recent studies that show that the unprecedented flood of illegal immigrants into the state and country has slowed. The Pew Hispanic Center reported in April that the illegal immigrant population grew rapidly from 1990 to 2006 but has since stabilized. Pew estimates 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants live in the United States; 350,000 in North Carolina.
The Pew Hispanic Center said it’s unclear whether illegal immigrants are returning home. The Center for Immigration Studies says otherwise. Authors say the number of illegal immigrants returning home has more than doubled in the last two years compared to earlier in this decade.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which supports greater controls of immigration, also challenges the findings of other demographers who have attribute the drop in illegal immigration almost exclusively to the economy.
“It does seem that nationally, the fall-off began before the economy tanked suggesting that increased enforcement in the last two years in the Bush administration played a roll in having the numbers fall,” said Steven Camarota, co-author of the study.
The center says the decline, whatever the cause, challenges the argument that illegal immigrants are so attached to their lives in this country that it’s not possible to induce them to return home. The center's authors say if the current trend continues for another five years, it could cut the illegal population in half from its peak in the summer of 2007.
The study, “A Shifting Tide: Recent Trends in the Illegal Immigrant Population,” can be read here.
Other findings from the study:
- The number of new illegal immigrants has fallen by about a third in the last two years compared to earlier in this decade.
- The illegal immigrant population rose in the summer of 2007, while U.S. legislators were considering legalizing illegal immigrants. When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began a dramatic fall.
- While the illegal-immigrant population has declined, the legal immigrant population has not. As a result, the overall foreign-born population has held relatively steady.
- Another indication that enforcement has contributed to the decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in the unemployment rate for illegal immigrants.
- While the decline began before unemployment among illegal immigrants rose, since then unemployment among illegal immigrants has increased dramatically and must now be playing a significant role in reducing their numbers.