Undocumented immigrant numbers increase

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About 11.2 million undocumented immigrants lived in the United States in 2010 — up from 11.1 million in 2009 — according to a Pew Hispanic Center report. The nonpartisan Washington, D.C., research group also found the number of undocumented workers — 8 million by its count — was unchanged from 2009, despite national and state-specific efforts to halt and reverse illegal immigration. The annual survey was made publicly accessible Tuesday. “There are two kinds of issues facing immigrants right now,” said Neil Foley, associate professor of history and expert on immigration. “The first is that we’re in the grips of the great recession right now, and the U.S. economy is not able to absorb as many workers as it once could. Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, so it’s no surprise that the numbers haven’t climbed. It doesn’t help that states are passing or attempting to pass laws that curtail the rights of immigrants.” Despite declines in key states like Florida, New York and Arizona, the immigrant population in Texas grew from 2007 to 2010. “Texas is one of the leading states in the creation of jobs for the recovery of the great recession,” Foley said. “Texas has more jobs for more people, not just immigrants.” Foley said the decline in states such as Arizona and the increase in others, such as Texas, can be attributed to interstate movement of unauthorized workers as they seek out favorable localities, not just a decrease in immigration from Mexico, which Pew reports as dropping from 7 million in 2009 to 6.5 million in 2010. Loren Campos, civil engineering senior and president of the undocumented student activist group, University Leadership Initiative, said these numbers reflect the inefficiency of the government’s decision to counter immigration with attrition. The policy of attrition makes life difficult for immigrants so that they will choose to leave of their own accords. “We want to urge our legislature to work on comprehensive common sense legislation to ensure the safety of our country and also to integrate those 11.2 million,” Campos said. Tyler Norris, government senior and chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, said he also recognized a failure, especially in the attempts to close the southern border. This need increases as violence increases in Mexico, Norris said. He is not surprised by the increase in the number of immigrants. “I didn’t expect this administration to do anything but pay lip service to the immigration problem as other administrations have done before,” Norris said. For the law enforcement arm of Texas government, these numbers are of no concern, said Maj. Mark Sawa from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. “We have no interest in enforcing immigration laws,” Sawa said. “Immigration laws are enforced by federal agents, and we do not nor ever have we enforced immigration laws. We enforce the laws of Texas, and those responsibilities keep us very, very busy.” Roger Wade, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said his office will not participate in the 287(g) program, which trains deputies to enforce the federal immigration code.