Illegal immigration on rise again as US economy improves, report says

The US Supreme Court will review the controversial Arizona immigration law.
Credit: John Moore

The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States may be on the rise again after a sharp dropoff during the recession, a new report claims.

As of March 2012, an estimated 11.7 million immigrants were living unlawfully in America compared to 11.3 million in 2009, according to the study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.

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Experts say that may be yet another sign that the US economy is indeed on the mend.

America's estimated number of unauthorized immigrants peaked at 12.2 million in 2007.

But when the bottom dropped out of the US economy, so did the flow of immigrants crossing the border looking for jobs.

Now jobs are on the rise again and unemployment levels are falling.

"As a whole, with the recession ending, the decrease in illegal immigration has stopped," Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew, told The Associated Press.

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But according to the report, this latest possible surge undocumented immigrants is coming not from Mexico, but Central America.

Border Patrol arrests of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico along the southwestern border jumped to 94,532 in fiscal 2012, up from 46,997 the previous year.

Specifically, agents are seeing a rise in undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The report also shows variations among states.

In Texas, undocumented immigrant numbers never dropped significantly in the last decade. But in Florida and New Jersey, the numbers are growing again after falling in the first years of the recession. And in California, Illinois and New York, the numbers declined after 2007 and never rebounded.

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