"The unlawful flow of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. continues to slow, and the nation's illegal immigrant population is down by nearly 1 million people, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a report released today.
"But Texas didn't show a decline in the most recent period of study, 2007 to 2009.Instead it showed an increase of 200,000, which the reports' authors said was not statistically significant.
"The report by the Pew Hispanic Center avoids naming causes for the contraction to 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. But it notes that the recession and tougher immigration enforcement paralleled a trend that "represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades."
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"Why Texas' population of illegal immigrants hasn't declined is up for debate.
"Mexican officials and others have speculated that Texas became a destination state for some immigrants from more economically battered U.S. states. Texas' jobless rate — now at 8.2 percent — has been 1 to 2 percentage points below the national average for much of the recession.
"The Pew study follows another report this week that says in Texas one out of three young students under the age of 8 has an immigrant parent. The Washington-based Urban Institute says nationwide one out of four students under the age of 8, roughly third-graders, has an immigrant parent.
"And Texas continues to have one of the nation's highest percentages of illegal immigrants in the labor force, at nearly 9 percent. Illegal immigrants account for 6.5 percent of the state's 24 million residents, or an estimated 1.6 million people in 2009. It's the third highest rate in the nation in a cluster led by California (with a 6.9 percent share).
"In Dallas, Vanna Slaughter, the longtime head of immigration services for Catholic Charities, said the report reflected what she saw in the population.
"The contraction doesn't surprise me," Slaughter said. "That it doesn't show up in Texas does."
"Slaughter said the State Department is seeing a similar trend in the legal flow of immigrants who petition to bring in relatives. Mexico leads in legal immigration, as well."