- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

The September 11 terrorist attacks and the economic downturn had no significant impact on the pace of immigration nationally, with more than 2.3 million new immigrant workers arriving in the United States since 2000 — half of them illegally.

In a report released yesterday, the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank, said that while there was some evidence immigration had slowed slightly during 2001, new legal and illegal immigration remained at record-setting levels.

“For the most part, immigration appears to be largely unconnected to national or state job market,” the report said. “Although unemployment has increased significantly overall and among the foreign-born, the pace of legal and illegal immigration continues to match that of the late 1990s.”

The report also said the country’s foreign-born population was a record 33.5 million, about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Mexico was the country of origin for most of the immigrants, nearly 10 million.

Based on Census Bureau data, the report also said:

• Since 2000, the 2.3 million legal and illegal immigrant workers who arrived in the United States nearly equaled the 2.2 million who came here during the three years prior to 2000, despite a dramatic change in economic conditions.

• There appeared to be no clear relationship at the state level between economic conditions and trends in immigration. Immigration levels have matched or exceeded the pace of the late 1990s in Maryland, Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, Washington, North Carolina, Georgia and New York — even as those states experienced a significant increase in unemployment.

• Looking only at the net increase in employment, the number of foreign-born adults holding a job has grown by 1.7 million since 2000, while among natives the number working fell by 800,000.

“Immigration is a complex process driven by a variety of factors, many of which have little to do with prevailing economic conditions in the United States,” said Steven Camarota, CIS director of research and the report’s author. This does not mean that economic factors are irrelevant.

“However, the continued high rates of immigration, nationally and to specific states hard hit by the recession, show that immigration is driven mostly by the higher standard of living in the United States compared to immigrant-sending countries, not by demand for labor in this country,” Mr. Camarota said.

The report said that while the number of foreign-born adults holding a job had increased since 2000, the number unemployed rose by 600,000, and the unemployment rate among foreign-born rose from 4.9 to 7.4 percent.

The report said the rapid growth in the foreign-born population made it possible for the number of immigrants holding jobs and the number unemployed to increase at the same time.

Mr. Camarota said the total foreign-born population now accounts for almost one of eight every residents of the United States, the highest percentage in more than eight decades.

He said the country’s current economic slowdown presented “a real-world test” of the widespread contention that immigration was primarily driven by the country’s labor needs.

He said the fact that immigration has not slowed significantly since 2000, even though unemployment has increased significantly, indicates that immigration levels do not simply reflect demand for labor in this country.


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