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[IWS] CRS: UNAUTHORIZED ALIENS RESIDING IN THE UNITED STATES: ESTIMATES SNCE 1986 [13 December 2012]

IWS Documented News Service

_______________________________

Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

________________________________________________________________________

 

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

Unauthorized Aliens Residing in the United States: Estimates Since 1986

Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy

December 13, 2012

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33874.pdf

[full-text, 19 pages]

 

Summary

Estimates derived from the March Supplement of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population

Survey (CPS) indicate that the unauthorized resident alien population (commonly referred to as

illegal aliens) rose from 3.2 million in 1986 to 12.4 million in 2007, before leveling off at 11.1

million in 2011. The estimated number of unauthorized aliens had dropped to 1.9 million in 1988

following passage of a 1986 law that legalized several million unauthorized aliens. Jeffrey Passel,

a demographer with the Pew Hispanic Research Center, has been involved in making these

estimations since he worked at the U.S. Bureau of the Census in the 1980s.

 

Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) reported

an estimated 11.5 million unauthorized alien residents as of January 2011, up from 8.5 million in

January 2000. The OIS estimated that the unauthorized resident alien population in the United

States increased by 37% over the period 2000 to 2008, before leveling off since 2009. The OIS

estimated that 6.8 million of the unauthorized alien residents in 2011 were from Mexico. About

33% of unauthorized residents in 2011 were estimated to have entered the United States since

2000, but the rate of illegal entry appears to be slowing. The OIS based its estimates on data from

the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

 

Although increased border security, a record number of alien removals, and high unemployment,

among other factors, have depressed the levels of illegal migration in recent years, the number of

unauthorized aliens residing in the United States remains sizeable. Research suggests that various

factors have contributed to the ebb and flow of unauthorized resident aliens, and that the increase

is often attributed to the “push-pull” of prosperity-fueled job opportunities in the United States in

contrast to limited job opportunities in the sending countries. Accordingly, the economic

recession that began in December 2007 may have curbed the migration of unauthorized aliens,

particularly because sectors that traditionally rely on unauthorized aliens, such as construction,

services, and hospitality, have been especially hard hit.

 

Some researchers also suggest that the increased size of the unauthorized resident population

during the late 1990s and early 2000s is an inadvertent consequence of border enforcement and

immigration control policies. They posit that strengthened border security curbed the fluid

movement of seasonal workers. This interpretation, generally referred to as a caging effect, argues

that these policies raised the stakes in crossing the border illegally and created an incentive for

those who succeed in entering the United States to stay. More recently, some maintain that

strengthened border security measures, such as “enforcement with consequences,” coordinated

efforts with Mexico to reduce illegal migrant recidivism, and increased border patrol agents, may

be part of a constellation of factors holding down the flow.

 

The current system of legal immigration is cited as another factor contributing to unauthorized

migration. The statutory ceilings that limit the type and number of immigrant visas issued each

year create long waits for visas. According to this interpretation, many foreign nationals who have

family in the United States resort to illegal avenues in frustration over the delays. Some

researchers speculate that record number of alien removals (e.g., reaching almost 400,000

annually since FY2009) may cause a chilling effect on family members weighing unauthorized

residence. Some observers point to more elusive factors when assessing the ebb and flow of

unauthorized resident aliens—such as shifts in immigration enforcement priorities away from

illegal entry to removing suspected terrorists and criminal aliens, or well-publicized discussions

of possible “amnesty” legislation.

 

Contents

Background ...................................................................................................................................... 1

Trends in Estimates Since 1986 ....................................................................................................... 2

Updated Estimates Based Upon 2010 Census ........................................................................... 5

Analysis from the March Current Population Survey ...................................................................... 5

Analysis from the American Community Survey ............................................................................ 8

Analysis of the Monthly Current Population Survey ..................................................................... 12

Contributing Factors ...................................................................................................................... 13

 

Figures

Figure 1. Estimated Number of Unauthorized Resident Aliens, 1986-2011 .................................... 3

Figure 2. Unauthorized Resident Alien Population, by Place of Origin, 1986 and 2010 ................ 6

Figure 4. Unauthorized Resident Alien Population, by State .......................................................... 7

Figure 5. Top 10 States with Unauthorized Resident Aliens ........................................................... 9

Figure 6. Top 10 Source Countries of Unauthorized Resident Aliens ........................................... 10

Figure 7. Age Distribution of Unauthorized Resident Aliens in 2011, by Gender ........................ 11

Figure 8. Unauthorized Resident Aliens in 2011, by Reported Year of Arrival ............................. 12

 

Contacts

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 16

Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 16

 

 

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This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

 




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