Ilegal immigration has seen a "sharp decline" over the last two years, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a new report Wednesday — the first significant drop in the last 20 years.
The drop coincides with both a slowing economy and stepped up enforcement under President George W. Bush and the early months of President Obama, though the report's authors said their data doesn't signal which factor is more important.
"At this point both of those broad factors seem to be working in the same direction," said Jeffrey Passel, the Pew Center's senior demographer.
Still, the drop is substantial. Just 300,000 illegal immigrants came per year in the last two years, or down nearly two-thirds from the rate earlier this decade. And the overall illegal immigrant population dropped from 12 million in 2007 down to 11.1 million as of March 2009, the report said.
The illegal immigrant population clearly shrank in Florida, Nevada and Virginia, and may have fallen slightly in other states, the report said.
The demographers used Census data from the annual Current Population Survey.
Illegal immigration had climbed steadily from 8.4 million in 2000 to a peak of 12 million in 2007, but has declined by 900,000 since.
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