Arizona, Like Rest Of The Country, Has Fewer Undocumented Immigrants Than A Decade Ago

By Claire Caulfield
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 8:53am
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 9:01am

All key metro areas in Arizona have fewer undocumented immigrants than a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

The report looked at population data between 2007 and 2016 and found the number of undocumented immigrants living in the Phoenix and Tucson areas decreased significantly.

There were about 210,000 undocumented migrants in the Phoenix metro area in 2016, the most recent estimates available. That compares with about 400,000 in 2007, though there is a margin for error.

Only the New York City and Los Angeles areas had a larger drop, though both decreases were smaller on a percentage basis.

Tucson's unauthorized population dropped about 25 percent, from 50,000 to 35,000.

Pew researcher Jeff Passel says Arizona reflects national trends.

"We know there's been a significant drop in Mexican unauthorized immigrants over that decade. And Arizona's unauthorized immigrant population is largely Mexican,” he said.

The areas around Yuma, Prescott and Lake Havasu also saw decreases.

Researchers say laws requiring businesses to verify their employees’ immigration status could have influenced the decline.

A 2007 law, formally known as the Legal Arizona Worker Act, allows a state judge to suspend all business licenses if a business is found guilty of knowingly hiring someone who is not in the country legally. A second offense within three years puts the company out of business.

Pia Orrenius is vice president and senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas who looked at the requirement for employers here to use the federal E-Verify system.

"The work that we found on E-Verify found that it actually has a significant impact on the wages of likely undocumented workers,'' she said, with a specific finding of an 8 percent reduction in hourly wages.

But Orrenius said there also are larger issues at work, including an improved economy in Mexico.

Overall, the report says the unauthorized population in the United States dropped from about 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million in 2016. And while most of the metro areas showed a decline or no significant change, there were a few areas with increases.

Most notable is the Washington, D.C. area where the number of people not in this country legally is estimated to have increased by 100,000 between 2007 and 2016, to 425,000.

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