Study: Lack of jobs spurs decline in state’s undocumented immigrants

Day laborers approach a driver who came to find a worker at De Vargas Park in April. The number of undocumented immigrants dropped 20,000 in New Mexico from 2009 and 2012, according to a newly released study, most likely because of the lack of jobs. New Mexican file photo

New Mexico is one of 14 states in which the population of undocumented immigrants declined between 2009 and 2012, according to a new study released last week.

New Mexico lost 20,000 “unauthorized” immigrants, falling from 90,000 to 70,000 during that time period, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.,-based research institute.

Most experts attribute the loss to the decline in jobs that draw people north of the border, among other factors.

The report says the number of unauthorized immigrants rose in seven states and decreased in 14, including New Mexico.

But overall the total undocumented immigrant population had leveled off to 11.2 million 2012, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2009.

The research center attributes the losses in most of the states where the numbers declined to the drop in the population of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Six of those states are in the West.

In six of the seven states where populations grew in this time period the increase was attributed to a rise in the number of non-Mexican immigrants.

Mexicans represent the majority of the undocumented immigrant population in the country.

In 2009, there were 6.4 million undocumented immigrants from Mexico in the U.S. That number went down in 2012 when there were 5.9 million undocumented Mexican immigrants.

Five other Western states that saw a decrease include, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon.

The five Eastern states that saw an increase in the undocumented immigration population between 2009 and 2012 include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Florida, the study says.

The study comes as President Barack Obama made an announcement last week that his administration would protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The main beneficiaries are those who have been in the U.S. illegally for more than five years but whose children are citizens or lawful permanent residents. After passing background checks and paying fees, the White House said, they can be granted relief from the fear of deportation for three years and get work permits.

Immigration trends are related to the “social network,” said Lisa Magaña, an Arizona State University associate professor who teaches Mexican-American history. New immigrants “will go where other immigrants have similar backgrounds,” she said.

Magaña said many people might attribute the decline in the undocumented immigrant population in some states to strict laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070, a 2010 act that, among other things, authorizes police to demand papers proving citizenship or immigration status from anyone they stop and suspect of being in the country unlawfully.

However, she said she believes the decline is related to economic conditions in the U.S. between 2007 and 2009 that drove many immigrants back to their home countries and discouraged others from entering the U.S.

Marie Provine, an ASU professor who teaches and studies immigration trends, said that immigrants tend to go where there are more jobs. New Mexico, which is among the poorest in the nation and has fewer jobs compared to its neighboring states, isn’t an attractive state for immigrants who have moved to the state seeking employment, she said.

She also noted that fewer Mexican immigrants have been moving to the U.S. because Mexico’s economy has been doing well in recent years.

Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.

(9) comments

Pat Shackleford

It's ridiculous to think that any of the above stated numbers of south-of-the-border immigrants is even close to actual numbers. Any group claiming to know, within a hundred thousand (less than 1% of estimated total), has an agenda for wanting people to believe those numbers. How did they manage to document the "undocumented"?

Joe Ray Anaya

Looks like the Gov got her wish. Tougher times for immigration due to her lack of jobs growth. We all lose. YAY!

Steve Salazar

Since there are few construction jobs, you know, the jobs American citizens don't want, illegals are going back home. It's funny that their economies are better than that of the US.

Pierce Knolls

So 5.3 million of the 11.2 million illegal immigrants currently in this country aren't Mexican?

Mike Johnson

That has to be a big error, as I recall, over 95% of the illegal aliens are Mexican/Central American types.

Comment deleted.
Joe Ray Anaya

Central America is in the North American continent. [rolleyes]

Comment deleted.
Mike Johnson

I must apologize for not using the PC term, let me correct it to read "of Hispanic ethnicity" then.

Mike Johnson

This is a wonderful thing, some positive news from our state's dismal economy at least.

Ron Lopez

It's a good thing?

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