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A report that America's illegal immigrant population declined by almost 1 million in one year is fomenting hot debate about why it is happening, whether the statistics are correct, and how the numbers should affect US immigration reform.

The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.6 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, the sharpest decrease in 30 years and a second straight year of decline, according to a Department of Homeland Security report released this week.

Some immigration-control groups say the decline is happening primarily because of a buildup of border patrol and surveillance and that the buildup should thus continue to further reduce illegal immigration. Other groups claim it is a result of the poor economy. Some say it is both, and still others doubt the statistics altogether. http://abcnews.go.com/story?id=9820177

By DANIEL B. WOOD -- ABC News

Interior Enforcement
Illegal Immigration
amnesty

Updated: Mon, Feb 15th 2010 @ 10:58am EST