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Report: Illegal immigration falls

Some researchers cite the economy

By Stephen Ohlemacher
Associated Press / October 3, 2008
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WASHINGTON - Illegal immigration, which has sparked political and social turmoil in communities across the nation, is on the wane, according to an independent report released yesterday.

The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has slowed significantly the past few years, falling below the number of those entering the country legally, according to the report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington think tank.

The report estimates there were 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States as of March. That would be a decline of 500,000 from the center's estimate a year ago. However, the change was not statistically significant because of the large margins of error.

The Pew study does not address why the decrease occurred, but other researchers cite the nation's struggling economy and stepped up enforcement of immigration laws.

"The decline in job prospects in construction, service and other low-skilled jobs are communicated through extended networks of would-be movers from Mexico and Latin America," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, another Washington think tank. "It also may propel more return migration."

Census data released last month showed that overall immigration slowed dramatically in 2007, though the Census Bureau does not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants are notoriously difficult to count. Many researchers, including the federal government, estimate there are about 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

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