While the overall number of immigrants living in the United States illegally has been relatively stable since 2009, far fewer of them are choosing to live in Kansas, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
The report by the nonprofit group shows Kansas is among 14 states with sharp declines in the number of residents living without legal immigration status. Seven other states had increases.
Between 2009 and 2012, some 20,000 immigrants without legal status left Kansas. That lowers the state’s total to an estimated 75,000.
The report attributes the population decreases among those in the country illegally to a decline in the number of Mexican-born immigrants. People from Mexico account for 75 percent of those living in Kansas without lawful immigration status.
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Immigration activist Sulma Arias, executive director of Kansas People’s Action, also pointed to increased deportations and lack of employment opportunities in Kansas.
“Families leave due to opportunities for jobs in other states, and other states are sometimes more welcoming as well,” Arias said.
But Ed Hayes, who runs the website Victims of Illegal Alien Crime Memorial from his Olathe home, said the immigrant population loss means more jobs for U.S. citizens.
“It is good – that is jobs that Americans can work or get back,” Hayes said.
The Pew Research Center also estimated in its report that immigrants without legal status account for 3.5 percent of the Kansas labor force while comprising 2.6 percent of the state’s population. About 7 percent of elementary and secondary schoolchildren in Kansas have a parent who is unlawfully in the United States.
Other Midwest states where the report indicated declines were Indiana and Illinois. Six Western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon – also saw decreases. The Northeastern states of Massachusetts and New York also had a decline.
States drawing the biggest increases in immigrants without lawful immigration status are Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.