Unauthorized Immigration Ticks Back Up Nationally (Probably), But Never Went Down in Texas

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Pew Research Center
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Check out this chart from a new study by the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.

What is this chart telling us? Well, it's telling us that unauthorized immigration is increasing after declining -- mostly likely due to the Great Recession -- from its high in 2007 (12.2 million) to 11.3 million in 2009. As you are probably aware, Texas is one of the major destination states for unauthorized immigrants: 60 percent of unauthorized immigrants end up in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas; basically all the states that matter (excluding NJ).

But, in all seriousness, how is this uptick affecting Texas? The report states:

Of these [six states], only Texas had increases but no decrease in its unauthorized immigrant population over the 2007-2011 period. The other five states (and the balance of the country) all experienced peak numbers of unauthorized immigrants in 2007 followed by declines over the next year or two.

In other words, unauthorized immigration coming into Texas was utterly unaffected by the Great Recession. And what about the larger picture of unauthorized immigration in Texas?

Looking back to 1990, Texas has had dramatic growth in its unauthorized population (as well as its overall population, which expanded more rapidly than the nation as a whole during this period). The 2012 Texas unauthorized total was nearly four times the size it was in 1990, when it was 450,000. The Texas unauthorized population also more than doubled from 1990 to 2000; from 2000 to 2012, it grew by about two-thirds (66%).

Partly this is because border patrol is a failed policy: researchers at the Univ. of Arizona issued a study positing that border patrol agents only caught about half of the roughly 700,000 people crossing over the traditional routes (e.g., San Diego, and, in Texas, El Paso and Brownsville).

But let's pull back the curtain and get the really big picture on unauthorized immigration. One prominent immigration scholar -- Princeton's Doug Massey -- has argued that when Congress militarized the border in 1986 after passing immigration reform, this caused many Mexicans to stay permanently in the U.S., when, in the past, they would go back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. In other words, militarizing the border had the exact opposite effect intended.

Indeed, militarizing the border in 1986 caused more Mexican immigrants -- who would have come to California, Illinois and Texas -- to find other routes in and find "nontraditional" states to settle in.

(It also important to note that the report states that the national uptick, given the margin of error in its analysis, is not statistically significant -- only more long-term data will tell us whether this is a blip or the start of a renewed nationwide trend).

Anyways, don't expect immigration reform to pass anytime soon -- the House is currently dysfunctional.

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