Illegal immigration drops (The San Bernardino Sun)

Jose Zapata Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, pointed to research out of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego that found fewer immigrants wanted to cross the border last year, because jobs are scarce.


BY JOSH DULANEY   SEPTEMBER 11, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO – Gerry Gates is a concrete contractor who has seen his fair share of illegal immigrants looking for work in front of home improvement stores.

But their numbers are thinning, he said Friday as he loaded parts and equipment into his truck outside a Lowe’s store on North Hallmark Parkway.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s as many guys,” Gates said.

A study released this month by the Pew Hispanic Center might bear that out.

The annual number of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. was nearly two-thirds smaller from March 2007 to March 2009, than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to estimates by the center.

That has translated into an overall reduction of 8 percent in the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S., to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12million in March 2007, according to the estimates.

Researchers said the numbers represent the first significant reversal in the population growth of illegal immigrants over the past two decades.

Those who assist them said the numbers show that illegal immigrants are hard-working people who are looking for jobs, but they can’t find jobs in what some say is the worst economy since the Great Depression.

“It’s not that immigrants or Mexicans want to take over the United States, like some of the arguments we hear on the other side from the Minutemen and the Tea Party,” said Emilio Amaya, director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center. “Immigration is tied to jobs.”

According to the Pew center’s estimates, California had the largest number of illegal immigrants in the 2009 labor force, with 1.8 million.

The illegal immigrant population was 9.3 percent of the labor force in California, which was a larger share of the labor force in any state except Nevada, which stood at 9.4 percent.

While Gates isn’t seeing as many immigrants in Home Depot parking lots, Amaya is seeing fewer in his office.

He said his group is dealing with a 20 percent decline in clients over the last two years.

“Last year was very difficult,” he said. “Our services are tied to the communities we serve, and we are noticing a huge decrease in services and donations from the community.”

Some, armed with their own anecdotes, dismiss the findings, saying the Pew Hispanic Center is pushing agenda-driven research.

“I don’t believe anything they say,” said Rick Oltman, spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization. “I talk to the Border Patrol agents and rangers on the border, and they’re basically seeing the same ebb and flow of (illegal immigrants) as they were before.” Oltman said the research demonstrates an open-borders bias that seeks to change and deflect the immigration debate.

“If the government knew what the number was and the word got out, you would have more than 70 percent (of Americans) supporting the Arizona law,” he said.

Others disagree, saying the center’s findings are consistent with other research.

Jose Zapata Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, pointed to research out of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego that found fewer immigrants wanted to cross the border last year, because jobs are scarce.

“What comes into play is the economic crisis that began in 2007,” Calderon said. “They don’t leave their country just out of wanting to. They leave because of the lack of jobs and the lack of security in terms of survival.”

Calderon said because of that, all the tough talk on border security is meaningless.

“Migration patterns will not significantly change with domestic immigration policies,” he said. “A long-term solution is really putting pressure on those companies (in other countries) who are not paying these workers very much, and that is something that the trade agreements have not addressed in the past.”

Amaya said stepped-up enforcement is having at least one counter effect.

“People decide to stay here,” he said. “They bring their own families because they are not able to go back. In the past, I would see these people come to the United States, work three to six months, go back, then (return) in a year. Now they bring everybody.”

Download: Pew Study

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