Blog Archive

Monday, September 6, 2010

Illegal immigrants down, but not in Illinois

State's population stable despite national trend
By Dahleen Glanton
The Chicago Tribune
September 01, 2010

The number of illegal immigrants in Illinois has remained stable in the midst of the recession, bucking a national trend in which the number living in the U.S. declined as jobs dwindled, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Illinois ranked No. 5 with an estimated 525,000 illegal immigrants in 2009, more than the approximately 475,000 in the state in 2008. The Pew analysts cautioned that their figures were based on a range of estimates, meaning that it is safer to say the Illinois illegal immigrant population was stable rather than to say it actually increased.

Nationwide, the total number of illegal immigrants has declined by about 1 million since 2007, to 11.1 million in 2009, representing about 4 percent of the U.S. population.

While Illinois has long been attractive to illegal immigrants, the population has fluctuated over the last two decades. Unlike many states that have experienced a clear peak and decline, Illinois grew from 200,000 to 475,000 from 1990 to 2000 and then dropped to 350,000 in 2005.

"Illinois seems to have dropped in the first half of the decade when everyone else was growing and now seems to have turned around and is going back up," said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer who conducted the survey based on U.S. census data.

The gap between Illinois and Florida and New York has tightened, Passel said, as those two states lost large illegal immigrant populations last year and Illinois gained over the last five years.

Nationwide, the study found that the most marked decline was among illegal immigrants from Latin American countries other than Mexico. From 2007 to 2009, immigrants from the Caribbean, Central America and South America decreased 22 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico, which accounts for about 60 percent of all illegal immigrants, leveled off after reaching a peak of 7 million in 2007, the study found.

"The people are drawn here by the abundance of work," said Tim Bell, an organizer for the Chicago Workers Collaborative, which advocates workers rights for immigrants. "Over the last 15 to 20 years, the immigrant population has exploded in the suburbs, where they do most of the service work."