[JURIST] The Office of Immigration Statistics of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] Wednesday estimating that the total number of illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] living in the US fell to 10.8 million during the year ending in January 2009. The DHS calculates the "unauthorized resident population" by subtracting the number of legal permanent residents, asylees, refugees, and non-immigrants from estimates of the total foreign-born population. The seven percent decline from 11.6 million in January 2008 is attributed by many to the economic decline during that period. According to DHS estimates, 10.8 million is the smallest population of unauthorized residents since 2005, when there were an estimated 10.5 million [report, PDF]. A Pew Hispanic Center [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] released in July showed a similar decline in the Mexican immigrant population in the US. The report clarified that although the recession has hurt employment of Latino immigrants [press release], the decline resulted from decreased immigration into the US rather than from immigrants leaving the US to go back to Mexico.
In December, Democratic lawmakers introduced an immigration reform bill in the US House of Representatives [official website] that would give undocumented immigrants an easier path to seek legal status in the country. The proposed legislation, which is titled the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) [bill summary, PDF], follows the Obama administration's announcement [JURIST report] that it would seek immigration reform early in 2010. In November, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] said that the proposed reform legislation would be a "three-legged stool" that combines effective and fair enforcement, an improved process for legal immigration, and a "firm but fair way" to deal with illegal immigrants who are already in the US. The proposed bill is also the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. At that time, detractors called the bill too lenient on illegal immigrants and said that by granting legal status to illegal aliens, the US was granting "amnesty."