I have been told that policy makers, the ones who keep making and passing the laws that have continuously criminalized immigrant communities, Latino communities, and all communities of color really, love statistics. They love numbers and charts (like Michele Bachmann’s following the SOTU?). It seems fitting then, that while anti-migrant bills get tossed around in both federal and state legislatures, the Pew Hispanic Center released a study that attempts to take a statistical snapshot of who the undocumented immigrants are in the U.S. and where they are.
As of March 2010, 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, virtually unchanged from a year earlier, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009 that was the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth. Unauthorized immigrants were 3.7% of the nation’s population in 2010.
The number of unauthorized immigrants in the nation’s workforce, 8 million in March 2010, also did not differ from the Pew Hispanic Center estimate for 2009. As with the population total, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the labor force had decreased in 2009 from its peak of 8.4 million in 2007. They made up 5.2% of the labor force in 2010.
The number of children born to at least one unauthorized-immigrant parent in 2009 was 350,000 and they made up 8% of all U.S. births, essentially the same as a year earlier. An analysis of the year of entry of unauthorized immigrants who became parents in 2009 indicates that 61% arrived in the U.S. before 2004, 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and 9% arrived from 2008 to 2010.
More interesting than the actual numbers perhaps has been the response to the report and how different state-centric media and orgs are using the report to prove and disproves ideas about immigrant communities in the U.S.
The Pew Hispanic Center on Tuesday estimated that Alabama may have 120,000 unauthorized immigrants as of March 2010, double the estimate for 2005 and nearly five times greater than the estimated 25,000 in 2000.
But “may have” is the important qualifier — unauthorized immigrants are one of the hardest ethnic groups to count.
Yes, you read that right. “Unauthorized immigrants” are now their own ethnic group.
Some outlets have used the report and it’s numbers showing that the undocumented population in the U.S. has remained steady as proof that the immigration system is working. If the numbers aren’t going up, it must mean we don’t have the “porous, open borders” that so many scream about. Om the flip side, the steadying of the numbers means that the laws aren’t being enforced hard enough. Anti-immigrant groups will likely accept nothing less than falling numbers.
Another portion of the Pew report that people are attaching to references the number of children born to undocumented parents. While the number of children born has remained essentially unchanged from the year before, what is more interesting is when these children are born. The stats do not support the anti-migrant/nativist argument that the undocumented are coming to the U.S. to drop anchors in the form of babies.
From the American Prospect:
Only 9 percent of undocumented immigrants had children shortly after arriving, and there’s a distinct lack of evidence that any of them had children for that reason
My issue with many policy makers who like to sit on stats, is that all of the facts, numbers, and charts in the world do not erase the base of racism on top of which many of anti-migrant/anti-Latino policy proposals and actions sit. Unless we get real about that and the history of how the United States, as a country, and its institutions have so many of those racist ideas embedded into them, all the facts, charts. numbers and reports won’t erase the idea that there are some that viewed as and treated as less than human.