On Wednesday the Pew Hispanic Center released a study tracking the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Overall the trend is showing a decline that experts believe is due to the recession and a decrease in available jobs. Illinois however bucks the trend with the states population remaining stable despite economic conditions.
Illinois is ranked #5 with an estimated 525,000 undocumented workers in 2009 (a increase in 50,000 from 2008). Illinois has been an attractive location for undocumented immigrants for a long time and typically its trends are unique. “Illinois seems to have dropped in the first half of the decade when everyone else was growing and now seems to have turned around and is going back up,” said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer who conducted the survey based on U.S. census data.
While Illinois ‘s undocumented immigrant population gained in the last 5 years, Florida and New York lost large amounts of their population. “The people are drawn here by the abundance of work,” said Tim Bell, an organizer for the Chicago Workers Collaborative, which advocates workers rights for immigrants. “Over the last 15 to 20 years, the immigrant population has exploded in the suburbs, where they do most of the service work.” Experts believe the stability in the Illinois statistics in may represent the fact that many of the Illinois undocumented immigrants include families. This is in contrast to states such as Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina that attract primarily young men who could find employment in the growing housing industry.
“When you look at Illinois, in comparison, we have been getting immigrants for many decades. They are not so heavily people who just recently arrived,” said Rob Paral, a research fellow with the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.” So the undocumented population in Illinois is more stable, relatively more settled and relatively less mobile.”