Illegal Immigrants: Which States Have Lost the Most?

Article excerpt

The number of illegal immigrants in the US has declined by about 1 million since the start of the recession. A new study looks at the trend state by state. Here are the top five.

The number of illegal immigrants in the United States has declined during the great recession, and the trend has been fueled by an exodus from erstwhile boom states like Arizona and Florida.

That's the message from an analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization.

According to the report, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the US stood at about 11.1 million in March 2009, down from 12 million in March 2007, shortly before the recession began. Although the report doesn't claim to have precise numbers, it estimates that most of the declines have occurred in a relative handful of states: Florida, New York, Arizona, New Jersey, and California.

Several of those are Sun Belt locales where a housing boom went bust, affecting the availability of jobs in construction and related fields. For example, the study suggests that the illegal immigrant population in Arizona fell by perhaps 20 percent, even before the governor signed a controversial law on the issue this year.

The Pew researchers estimate these states to have seen the largest declines in unauthorized immigrant population in 2008 and 2009:

Florida: 675,000 illegal residents, down by 375,000.

New York: 650,000 illegal residents, down by 150,000.

Arizona: 375,000 illegal residents, down by 100,000.

New Jersey: 475,000 illegal residents, down by 100,000.

California: 2,550,000 illegal residents, down by 100,000.

Several states next on the list are also fast-growing Southern or mountain states that were hit hard by the real estate slowdown: Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado.

In Texas, a state with many unauthorized immigrants that was not so hard hit by the downturn, the total number of illegal residents has not declined, Pew estimates.

Why are they leaving?

The Pew report merely represents an estimate, not a definitive count for the nation or any one state. But its nationwide conclusion is similar to estimates by other groups.

On Thursday, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) wrote that the Department of Homeland Security has put the total number of illegal immigrants at 10. …