NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 14, 2009

Illegal immigration to the United States may be slowing, but undocumented migrants who are already here aren't likely to return home en masse barring a more severe economic downturn, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

Other findings:

  • The recession hasn't limited legal immigration, because most of those people come to the United States on family-based visas that take years to secure.
  • Since last year, the growth of the foreign-born population in the United States began slowing when the recession started at the end of 2007.
  • Net illegal immigration is dropping to near zero, according to the institute and other groups.

The researchers conclude that it is premature to expect a wave of returnees to home countries, even in Latin America. They looked at current and historical data, finding "there is no definitive trend so far that can be tied in a significant way to the U.S. economic conditions."

Instead, they found that even in the toughest economic times, illegal immigrants are likely to search for lower-paying work, then move within the United States to find other work, before considering a return home.  Economic conditions in their native countries compared with those inside the United States also weigh more heavily in decisions about whether to return, the study's lead author, Dimitrios Papademetriou, said.

Source: Cam Simpson, "Illegal Immigrants Stay in U.S. Despite Recession," Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2008.

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