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Illegal immigrant population in U.S. plummets, according to a new report

February 10, 2010 | 11:58 am

The number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. plummeted to 10.8 million in 2009, from 11.6 million the previous year, marking the sharpest decline in years and coinciding with the economic downturn, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, California’s illegal-immigrant population dropped to 2.6 million, from 2.8 million during this same period, according to the report, which is based on census data. The only state to see its number of undocumented residents go up during this time was Georgia, which went from 460,000 to 480,000.

The report cautioned that changes made to the census survey could have affected the results.

Some researchers said that the drop is because fewer illegal immigrants were entering the country.

But others disagree, saying the decline is largely due to undocumented immigrants either voluntarily leaving or being deported.

Most researchers said that the downturn in the economy has played a key role in reducing the illegal immigrant population. But some point out that the drop in the undocumented population started before the recession.

The number of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. declined to 11.6 million in 2008, from 11.7 million the previous year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. To see the full report, visit http://www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/immigration.shtm.

-- Teresa Watanabe 

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