A new Census Bureau report estimates that the United States only added about 500,000 immigrants in 2007, down from more than 1.8 million in 2006. This marked decrease can partly be explained by America's economic downturn and by the government's decision to enforce immigration laws.
Since 1990, the Bureau estimates the United States has added an average of about 1 million immigrants per year. William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said, "The U.S. is still a beacon for many people who want to come here for all kinds of reasons.... [b]ut what this shows is that the economy plays a big part in it." He went on to say that "the geography of where these people move is much more tied to the economy than ever before."
Frey’s own analysis found that the influx of Hispanic immigrants slowed to about 350,000 in 2007, down from more than 500,000 annually during the rest of the decade, and that the influx of Asian and African immigrants slowed by more than 60 percent between 2006 and 2007.
Immigration enforcement has also played a role in this immigration downturn. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have begun to crack down on employers of illegal aliens and have launched numerous high-profile raids. These raids are beginning to convince employers that hiring illegal labor, while cost effective, is no longer a safe option. States like Arizona and Oklahoma also have passed law to target illicit employers.
The immigration downturn has not affected every part of the United States. Data show that cities such as Phoenix, Boston, and Denver have seen an increase in the number of immigrants.
The Bureau estimates the number of immigrants in the U.S. is now at an all-time high – 38 million. Immigrants constituted 12.6 percent of the population in 2007, the largest percentage since 1920. In 1924, during the last great wave of immigration, Congress reduced the influx to more traditional levels in an effort to help the massive numbers of immigrants to assimilate. Few in Congress are talking about this realistic solution to America’s burgeoning population now.
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Updated: Tue, Sep 23rd 2008 @ 2:56pm EDT