According to the 2008 American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 38 million foreign-born persons residing in the United States. Although in absolute numbers this represents the highest figure ever, it amounts to only 12.5 percent of the population compared to nearly 15 percent between 1870 to 1920. The impact of immigration on the labor market during the early part of the twentieth century was much greater than it is at the present time. In order for the labor market to be similarly impacted today, immigration would have to increase dramatically!
Rather than increasing, however, the current number of immigrants to the United States from Mexico is diminishing noticeably according to a survey completed in 2009 by the Pew Hispanic Center. Survey data from the U.S. and Mexico reveal that in recent years there has been a large flow of migrants back to Mexico. However, since 2006, the size of the annual return flow appears to be stable. As for immigration to the U.S. from Mexico, surveys from both countries attest to recent substantial decreases in the number of new arrivals. This finding is reinforced by U.S. Border Patrol data showing markedly reduced apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross into the United States illegally.
The current immigration controversy with its focus on illegal immigrants, is being viewed through the lens of a post 9/11 perspective and the current economic downturn. The lingering fear and tightened security are causing the nation to reconsider and redefine its laws once again. United States citizens who are currently unemployed are beginning to resent the immigrant who has a job. Whether the unemployed would actually do the work that the immigrant is doing seems to be of little concern. The belief that America’s traditions and customs are being threatened by the influx of immigrants is on the rise. The current state of the economy, high unemployment rates and foreclosures are exacerbating feelings of fear and paranoia.