Legal immigration up, illegal immigration down in tough economic times

by Ryan Streeter on January 31, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

If you don’t follow the immigration debate closely, you may not know that illegal immigration has been flat or on the decline ever since our economy started struggling. As candidates in 2012 vigorously debated who was toughest on illegal immigration, illegals were heading home.

What’s interesting, though, is what the latest Pew poll shows – namely that legal immigration has continued to grow during a sour economy. Our economy has been much kinder to more highly educated people during the downturn, and legal immigrants fit this bill much more than illegals. This has something to do with this picture:

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 9.37.21 PM

I also liked this data point: immigrants make up 13% of our population, which is less than the 15% figure during the 1890-1920 time period in American history.