Study: Illegal Immigrant Population Could Be on Rise

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 23 2013 6:16 PM

Study: Illegal Immigrant Population Could Be on Rise

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A migrant farm worker picks spinach near a mobile clinic on September 16, 2009 near Wellington, Colorado.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

During the particularly lean economic years from 2007 to 2009, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. dipped, as the country entered the Great Recession. But, according to a Pew Research Center study of U.S. census data, that decline has bottomed out, and the number of undocumented immigrants in the country may be on the rise.

According to the Pew study, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. peaked at 12.2 million in 2007, but, breaking a decades long trend, fell to 11.3 million in 2009. As of March 2012, the number ticked up to 11.7 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. “We don’t know what caused that decline, but it certainly coincides with the recession,” Jeffery Passel, co-author of the report, told the New York Times. “And we can say that the current enforcement practices have not led to any measurable reduction beyond the 2009 period.”

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The report’s findings, the Washington Post reports, “could lend new urgency to the debate over comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, as lawmakers wrestle with how to address the fate of the undocumented population.”

Pew cautioned that the results were only preliminary: "Although it appears that the unauthorized immigrant total has begun to grow again, the data are insufficient to say so definitively," said the report. A more definitive count will be possible when more microdata is made available from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey later this year, according to Reuters.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.