Why Washington's undocumented immigrant population is rising | KUOW News and Information

Why Washington's undocumented immigrant population is rising

May 5, 2017

Kim Malcolm talks with Pew Research Center demographer Jeff Passel about new population estimates about undocumented immigrants in the United States. 

On why the undocumented population is in decline:

"What we think happened is that unauthorized immigrants are coming for jobs. The jobs were no longer available with the Great Recession and a lot of unauthorized immigrants left.

"This is a population that consists mainly of young working families, and a lot of them had put down roots. The ones who had been in the U.S. for relatively short periods of time left when they couldn't find jobs. But the ones who had been here a while, seemed to have stayed."

On why Washington's undocumented population is increasing:

"The broad picture is that unauthorized immigrants have tended to settle where they can find jobs. We know in Washington a lot of unauthorized immigrants work in agriculture, construction, and the service industry. Those are sectors in the Washington state economy that have shown improvement over the past five years."

On what surprised him about this new data:

"Going back to 1990, when the U.S. economy is strong and improving, the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the country has gone up. And when the U.S. economy went into recessions, the flow of unauthorized immigrants went down.

"Since 2009, the U.S. economy has been steadily improving. If the model had worked, we'd expect to see increasing numbers of unauthorized immigrants coming in the country. But what we've been seeing is decreasing numbers."