Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that after nearly 40 years of recorded increases, the number of immigrants living in the United States remained flat between 2007 and 2008.
The U.S. foreign-born population represented about 12.5 percent of the population in 2008, down from 12.6 percent in 2007, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
This is noteworthy when compared to the upward trend in the foreign-born population over the past few decades.
The economic downturn and high unemployment are likely factors causing the shift. The largest declines in the foreign-born population were in states that were hardest hit by the recession, including California, Florida and Arizona.
"Would-be unauthorized immigrants and legal temporary workers are mostly the ones who have decided to stay put in their home countries for now," said Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that emigration from Mexico, the largest source of immigrants to the United States, slowed at least 40 percent between mid-decade and 2008, based on national population surveys in the United States and Mexico, as well as Border Patrol apprehension figures.
Along with the decline in the noncitizen population, however, there was a notable increase in the number of naturalized citizens as the number of individuals who are naturalized citizens increased to 43 percent of the foreign-born population in 2008 from 42.5 percent in 2007. This was likely caused by a significant fee increase imposed in 2007 for naturalization applications.
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