Phoenix, AZ – Pew Hispanic estimates there were 475,000 illegal immigrants in
Arizona in 2008. By last year that had slid by 100,000. That 20-
plus percent decline compares with just a 4 percent slide
nationwide. And some states like Texas showed no real change.
Jeff Passel, Pew's senior demographer, said some migrants may
simply be following the jobs rather than going home.
(They may well be going to different parts of the country. My
understanding is that Texas does have a better economy.
Conditions there are better than in many parts of the country. So
that is a possible explanation.)
Passel said he cannot explain the sharp drop in Arizona. He
specifically said it is impossible to determine whether that is
the effect of a law approved in 2007 which allows judges to
punish employers found guilty of knowingly hiring undocumented
workers. And Passel said the numbers were computed before Arizona
enacted its tough new law aimed at illegal immigration, some
parts of which took effect July 29. Overall, he said it is
difficult to separate out the effects of the economy and things
like stepped-up enforcement.
(As somebody who's been doing estimates here for a long time, I
have observed that the debates about illegal immigration get more
heated when the economy is in trouble.)
Passel said the illegal population is very young, with 58 percent
between 18 and 39. For the U.S.-born population, that figure is
just 28 percent. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.