Immigration by the numbers

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Few surprises in this new Pew study on illegal immigration to the US. The number of undocumented immigrants has reached 10.3 million and keeps on growing; Mexicans account for the largest chunk, at 57 percent, or 6 million; undocumented migrants now represent about one-third of the total foreign-born US population; the most rapid growth of illegal immigration occurred in states without a long tradition of immigration, especially North Carolina and Arizona. (One number that did surprise me: one in six illegals is a child.)

The AP story doing the rounds describes a “surge” in illegal immigration driven by Mexicans and making a mockery of post 9/11 border-control efforts. True enough, these are big numbers, and they’ve been getting steadily bigger — by about 485,000 a year since 2000. But I notice that more illegal immigrants came to the US in the boom years of 1995 and 1999 than did between 2000 and 2004 (3.6 and 3.1 million, respectively); this doesn’t suggest to me that we’ve got a handle on illegal immigration; but nor does it tell me the problem’s gotten totally out of hand, which you’d assume from the tenor of the coverage. Just something to bear in mind as Bush gets together with Vicente Fox and the usual suspects renew their calls for draconian anti-immigrant measures.

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