The number of illegal immigrants in the United States levelled off at around 11 million in 2010, ending a two-year slide since the start of the recession, according to a study released on Tuesday.
The study by the Pew Hispanic Centre noted 11.2 million illegal immigrants living and working in the shadows in the United States in March 2010, virtually unchanged from a year earlier.
The report, which drew on US Census Bureau data, noted the number of illegal immigrants in the workforce remained steady at around 8 million.
The levelling off last year followed a two-year slide in the population to 11.1 million in 2009 from a peak of 12 million in 2007, at the start of the U.S. recession.
What we have seen in the past is that the flow of unauthorized immigrants, particularly from Mexico, has been very closely tied to the state of the U.S. economy, said senior demographer Jeffrey S. Passel.
We've seen large drops in the inflows when the U.S. went into a recession and large increases when the U.S. economy was booming, he added.
The study found the decline in the number of illegal immigrants has been especially marked in Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia -- which had previously noted growth in their unauthorized population -- as well as in Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
Passel said factors including a struggling local economy, together with local initiatives to crack down on illegal immigrants, likely contributed to the decline. ”We can point to the economy as perhaps the principal factor ... (although) Arizona and Virginia also passed restrictive legislation to limit undocumented immigration”.
On Monday US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said authorities had deported 779.000 illegal immigrants over the past two fiscal years which represents a record.
”In fiscal years 2009 and 2010 (from October 2008 to September 2010), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed from our country more illegal immigrants than ever before,” said Napolitano at the University of Texas at El Paso (south).
Napolitano on Monday presented the achievements of the initiative to the border with Mexico, launched by the Barack Obama in 2009 to reinforce the area and revealed that during fiscal year 2010 were deported 195 000 illegal immigrants who had committed a crime, another record. Also in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, authorities seized 282 million USD (35% more than in the previous two years) and 6 000 800 weapons (28%) at the border, aimed at organized crime in Mexico, Napolitano said.
“We have strengthened our southwestern border in a way that many thought was not possible,” said Napolitano, who has led efforts to send more troops to the area, which currently monitors 20 000 members of the Border Patrol and 200 thousand soldiers National Guard.