Recent Demographic Change in Arizona: Anatomy of Effective Immigration Reform Legislation (2012)

The full report is available in pdf format.

Executive Summary

The efforts of Arizona policymakers to deter the settlement of illegal aliens in the state and to encourage those already in the state to leave have made major advances in their objective. The achievements include a reduction in the illegal alien population and, as a consequence, in related state and local expenditures. The following indicators of change all point to major progress:

  • The rapid population growth prior to 2007 that was fueled by illegal immigration has significantly dropped. After 2007, the average annual population growth decreased by nearly 150,000 persons and about 90,000 of that change is accounted for by a drop in foreign-born persons moving to the state.
  • Between 2007 and 2010 the resident foreign-born population in Arizona from Latin America fell by an annual average of 33,500 residents. This reflects the disproportionate representation of Mexicans in the state’s illegal alien population. According to Pew Hispanic Center researchers, in 2010 — after the reduction noted above — between 81 and 95 percent of the state’s illegal alien population was Mexican.
  • The federal immigration authorities estimate of Arizona’s illegal alien population fell by 100,000 from 560,000 in 2008 to 460,000 in 2009. A drop in the estimated illegal alien population occurred in other states as well — by an estimated 8 percent nationally. However, the estimated drop in Arizona of nearly 18 percent was by far the largest in the country.
  • American Community Survey data show a notable drop in Arizona families living in poverty between 2005 and 2008; a reduction by 5.5 percent compared to a drop of 4.9 percent nationally. Arizona families with annual earnings of less than $35,000 increased between 2000 and 2005 and then dropped. There were more than 40,000 fewer low-wage families in the state in 2009 than in 2005.
  • Births in the state in 2010 were 13,500 fewer than in 2007. This drop paralleled the reduction in the poverty population and the illegal alien population, and suggests that this also represents a reduction in births paid for by Medicaid.
  • According to data of the Arizona Department of Education, preliminary enrollment data for Limited English Proficiency classes in 2010 show about 37,600 fewer students in 2010 than in 2005, i.e., a decrease of 24.4 percent while nationally LEP enrollment was increasing by 4 percent. The related annual savings was about $97 million.
  • FBI crime data registered a major drop from 2005 to 2010 in violent crimes in Arizona — by 14.4 percent compared to a 10.4 percent drop nationally. Property crimes declined more steeply — by 21.4 percent, i.e., more than twice the reduction nationwide (10.7%).
  • Arizona's uninsured motorist rate dropped from 17.8 percent in 2007 to 11.9 percent in 2009 according to a study at New Mexico State University's college of Business.

Besides the immigration restriction legislation enacted in 2007, other factors that likely have played a role in curbing illegal alien residence in the state include local-national law enforcement cooperation and border security measures, while at the same time the state was experiencing the effects of the recession, loss of jobs and growing unemployment.

The confluence of all of these factors constituted a strong message that Arizona was no longer a desirable destination for illegal aliens and that already settled illegal aliens faced increased exposure to identification and deportation.

Concurrently there were activities designed to reassure illegal aliens that they would still be able to find supporters and protectors if they decided to come to or remain in the state. These efforts included an initiative by the Mexican government to indicate safe illegal border-crossing routes, state-based organizations which provided water supplies for illegal aliens crossing remote stretches of desert on foot, Mexican consular services for those in the state, support services provided to illegal aliens by religious and other groups, as well as legal efforts supported by the Obama administration to nullify the restrictive measures. The demographic data point to the fact that these accommodating messages have been out-weighed by the law enforcement messages.

August 2012