The recession’s inpact on immigration

The Migration Policy Institute released this brief statement: The effect of the recession on immigrants in the United States has been deepened by the fact that many immigrants share demographic characteristics with the groups most vulnerable during a recession — young people, individuals with lower levels of education, and those who have recently entered the labor force. Foreign-born workers are also overrepresented in the industries that have been hit the hardest during the recession, such as construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and support and personal services.
In particular, those from Mexico and Central America have been affected disproportionately. Many worked in the construction industry, which started collapsing after the housing bubble burst in late 2006.
In addition, many recent refugees, including those from Iraq, have struggled to find work due to the recession. Their precarious situation prompted advocacy groups to criticize the funding of US refugee resettlement programs and to point to the lack of sensitivity shown to this group’s vulnerability during an economic downturn.
These impacts have been lessened to some extent by the fact that immigrants are generally more flexible about changing jobs and geographic locations than are native-born workers.
The sluggish economy has also made the United States less attractive for those seeking economic opportunities. Data suggest that immigration to the United States began to slow in late 2007 and that flows of unauthorized immigrants have decreased significantly.
However, there is no evidence that the recession has caused a substantial wave of returns to Mexico. Over the last year, the size of the unauthorized population, of which the largest share (59 percent) is Mexican, has decreased only slightly, from an estimated 12.1 million in July 2008 to 11.9 million in August 2009.
In an interesting twist, anecdotal evidence suggests that some Mexican families have sent money to support their family members in the United States.
Another impact of the recession has been decreased demand for H-1B temporary visas for highly skilled workers. In previous years, the 65,000 cap has been reached within the first few days the visas become available (see Figure 4). The cap for fiscal year 2010 was not met until December 21, 2009 — nearly nine months after employers were eligible to file fiscal year 2010 petitions.

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