The Hill (Op-Ed)
By Kevin Appleby
February 3, 2016
A recent report by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) of New York has concluded that the number of undocumented persons in the nation has fallen to below 11 million for the first time in over ten years. The Mexican population, which constitutes the majority of the undocumented, has dropped nearly 10 percent over the last five years, by 600,000 people.
These figures, based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS) and analyzed by former Census Bureau and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) demographer Robert Warren, suggests a trend that is much different from what is being said on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress. Assertions that the nation is being overwhelmed by undocumented persons, especially those from Mexico, ring hollow.
Another interesting conclusion from the report is that some portion of the undocumented population is not leaving but are attaining legal status. Over the past 35 years, the report finds, the Mexican legal resident population has grown faster than the Mexican undocumented population.
Such a trend should be positively received by both sides of the debate, as both should agree that legal immigration is preferable. It also shows that undocumented persons want to play by the rules, but often the rules exclude them, as they have no legal avenues available to them under the current system.
The report does not address the underlying causes of the reduction, but many reasons could be at play. The relative weakness of the economy over the past several years, the changing demographics and birth rates in sending countries, and the strengthening of economies to the south are contributing factors. And, yes, increased border enforcement most likely is another element of the equation, although it should be taken into account that it also makes it more difficult for people to leave and return to their home countries.
At the same time the undocumented from Mexico and other Latin American countries has fallen, the number of Central Americans--particularly from the nations of the northern triangle--has risen by 5 percent. Why the difference? No doubt it indicates that the migration flow from that region is much different, as unaccompanied minors and vulnerable families are fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States. It flags this group as largely a refugee population, not an economic one. They are not breaking the law, but seeking protection from it.
Regardless of the lower numbers, 10.9 million undocumented persons remain in the country, irrespective of economic trends and increased federal, and, in some cases, state immigration enforcement.
The CMS estimates for 2014 show that 6.4 million, or nearly 60 percent of the undocumented population have, lived here over 10 years. They have built equities in the United States—U.S.-citizen children, homes, community ties---which compel them to stay. Absent a large-scale deportation exercise, which is unrealistic, cost-prohibitive, and inhumane, they will remain indefinitely.
Should the Supreme Court uphold the president’s executive actions, approximately 5 million would receive temporary protection from deportation, but that would not substitute for legislation which could bring the large majority out of the shadows for good. Congress, as well as the presidential candidates, should consider these numbers as they consider policy choices in the months ahead.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com