Where have all the (illegal) immigrants gone?

March 5, 2018 11:23 PM
Instead of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, perhaps we should construct barriers to prevent their leaving.

Instead of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, perhaps we should construct barriers to prevent their leaving.

A recent study by the Center for Migration Studies indicates a sharp decline in the U.S. undocumented population over a six-year period.

This bit of news won’t quell the demand by President Trump for a border wall, though perhaps that is the intent of the report.

The report, called “The US Undocumented Population Fell Sharply During the Obama Era: Estimates for 2016,” includes estimates of the U.S. undocumented population for 2016 by country of origin and state of residence.

The study found:

  • The undocumented population fell below 10.8 million in 2016, the lowest level since 2003;
  • The number of US undocumented residents from Mexico fell by almost one million between 2010 and 2016;
  • Average annual undocumented population growth dropped from 15% in the 1990s to about 4% in 2000 to 2010. Since 2010, the undocumented population from most countries has declined.
  • In the 2010 to 2016 period, five major sending countries had large population declines: Poland (-47%); Peru (-40%); Ecuador (-31%); Colombia (-29%); and South Korea (-27 percent).
  • From 2010 to 2016, six of the 10 states with the largest undocumented populations had declines of more than 10%: Illinois (-20%); North Carolina (-16%); California (-13%); New York (-13%); Arizona (-12%); and Georgia (-11%). The only large state to gain was Texas (+2%).

The report said the shift occurred over a time period “that included Congress’ repeated consideration of the DREAM Act and reform bills that included legalization programs.” The decline also occurred during the establishment and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the study said.

The study said the undocumented population dropped in most of the states from 2010 to 2016, with California declining by 367,000, or 13% of its undocumented population. The declines were closely related to the decline of the undocumented population from Mexico, according to the study.

“CMS’s findings provide further evidence of the historic shift in the undocumented population in the U.S.,” Donald Kerwin, CMS’s executive director said in the release. “This shift undercuts the claimed need for massive expenditures on a border-wide wall. It shows that the undocumented population has been decreasing for some time, and that the administration’s narrative of an out-of-control border is exaggerated, if not simply wrong.”

In the backdrop of the border wall debate, there is fresh controversy over Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in California.

From the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on March 5:

“Reports that at least 26 farm workers were arrested by ICE and placed in deportation proceedings last week are deeply troubling. Farmworkers are essential to California’s agriculture industry, performing backbreaking jobs that are vital to our economy.

“Workers who contribute to our country, pay taxes and don’t pose a threat to public safety shouldn’t be targeted for deportation just to score political points.

“The only way to guarantee protection for these workers is to pass my bill to provide them legal status and a path to citizenship. We must protect those who help put food on our tables.”

Check out the L.A. Times coverage of the farmworker arrests here.

Farm labor reform keeps getting harder and securing a legal workforce is perhaps the most daunting challenge the industry faces.

Along that line, I recently asked the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about the biggest challenges and opportunities the fresh produce sector must confront. Check out the thread here. Read the comments so far and add your own thoughts.

One more thing. A closer look at farm country (population, ethnicity, migration, and more) on a county basis is available from the USDA’s atlas of rural and small-town America. Check it out here.

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