Sunday, July 11, 2010

Arizona and Tucson: Benefits and Costs of Undocumented Immigrants to the Economy and Socio-Demographic Patterns, a Mexican View and Analysis

Arizona and Tucson: Benefits and Costs of Undocumented Immigrants to the Economy and Socio-Demographic Patterns, a Mexican View and Preliminary Analysis

Background Information about wording of Undocumented workers and the meaning for social and economic research in the US immigrant population

This first account of benefits and costs of undocumented immigrants in Arizona puts together a wide number of essays, articles and statistics that relate to the State of Arizona as well as some of our own ideas and research. Some data refers to the Tucson Metro Region and some more to Pima County. In some cases, we collected national statistics and could not get direct information regarding Arizona. However, it is possible to generate credible hypothesis about Arizona and the general economic tendencies in the state, thanks to historical patterns and indirect indicators obtained from National Statistics and trends.

Conceptualization of Undocumented Immigrants.- In the Mexican government conceptualization, Mexican authorities always speak and write about “Undocumented workers” and avoid using the US concept of “illegal Alien” utilized by US Border Patrol and other US state agencies as Homeland Security (ACE) and most of the US Media. This is not a minor issue of different words for the same issue. In Spanish the concept of “illegal” has a strong link with criminal activities or felony. At the same time, it becomes a political and social issue the way each country use distinct word for people lacking the proper papers to work

The idea of Illegality in Spanish is not only someone breaking the law or trespassing the border without the proper documents. For example, traffick of drugs is an illegal activity any place, but in Mexico, selling food in the streets or any informal business activity can be fined by government authorities because the informal vendor or business does not have the proper permits, but in general, it maybe not qualify as “illegal activity”. For the US anyone without the proper documents for working and doing so, is an “illegal alien”. For Mexico the use of Undocumented is also a question of analizing the complexity of international migration, especially the striking imbalances between the US Economy with a neighboring less developed country as Mexico.

Sharing a border of more than 2 thousand miles with the US, that has labor demand for unskilled and semi-skilled workers that can not be supplied through a bilateral agreement or any other mean that will provide enough visas or temporary visas for the Mexican or Central American immigrant to come to the US with the proper papers through a waiting line that will allow them to work. There is no waiting line for this kind of workers. Even if their native countries have possibilities of providing them with jobs, the wage differential will push them to come to the US.

Most of the times, market forces and market mechanisms are stronger than any other legislation enforced.

We agree that people break the Immigration Law when they work without a work permit, those people can be legally here as students or tourists but if they work and they are not allowed to do so, they are undocumented for work but not –for Mexican law Conceptualization- fully “illegal aliens”. Recently, the Mexican Congress approved new legislation to stop criminalizing undocumented people in Mexican territory.

We can think of many non-Mexicans and Mexicans too, who are legally in the US, in many cases they tried hard to have a work visa or renew a work visa as the case of many Indian Citizens that could not renew their visa due to downsizing of software firms and low number of work visas such as H1A, H2B, J1 or other visas for working. According to Jeffrey Passel there is a good number of Indian Citizens working without the proper documents, these numbers in 2009 can surpasse the 400,000, many of them with high tech skills.

International Perspective of Migration and Law Enforcement.- Does it mean that we do not acknowledge that undocumented workers are breaking the immigration laws? Of course we know that they are breaking the law since the moment they enter with no visa to the US. The true historical issue is that for many years they have had a work offer from US employers and this offer and need for their cheap labor has been present for many decades. It will be imposibble to understand the contemporary US economy and society without immigrant workers especially the key role of undocumented for competitiveness of many industries such as hospitality and tourism industries, manufacturing, agricultural production for exports and national consumption needs, construction and the growth of real estate markets, etc

There are two sides to see the problem, and both of them are true: one side argues that Mexican government and other governments of developing countries have not been able to provide well paid jobs to their citizens and they are pushed by the great magnet of attraction of the US labor market and more opportunities for poor immigrants from far away places as China, India and The Philippines. In many cases, the immigrants are not the poorest ones as they need a good amount of money to arrive to the US without proper papers using expensive smugglers and many times putting in high risk their lives such as is the case of Mexicans and Central Americans. More than 500 of these immigrants die every year trying to cross to the US

The other side argues that even if the developing countries were efficient and had enough supply of jobs, Mexico and other countries, still many people will be attracted to the US labor market because salaries are higher, there are more opportunities to increase standards of living, better education for their children and safer social environments.

Maybe this view is not true for many places in the US such as poor neighborhoods in California with low quality education, high rate of homicides and street violence as well as high criminality due to drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Workers and his/her families can be at risk in the US due to lack of health insurance, poor education and nutrition. Poverty is a complex problem for many americans, many of them Mexican-Americans, Latinos in general including Puerto Ricans, Afro-Americans and of course, undocumented of all backgrounds.

Both sides have good reasons and credible arguments. In many ways, we dont have a wise view of the historical perspective of these countries and the role of the US as an international power that has had a relevant presence to keep certain kind of leadership and policies that most of the times have responded more to a national security interest of the US putting in second place the need of accountability and economic development in these countries.

Additional complexity must be mention when analyzing the role of International corporations in developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia. “Market forces” in this case are not so natural because many fo the corporate presence has had the backing of their country of origen. However, in today´s global economy, international corporations have their own global interest not necessarily responding to the national interest of the country where they have their corporate headquarters. This new globality responds more to the logic of expansion and market competitiveness of the global firm that can be far away of national needs of new hosting countries. The key role of international corporations in world wide trade and manufacturing can not be underestimated due to hard data and facts that shows that more than 60 % of world foreign trade and manufacturing is done by these corporations, with great amount of intra-firm global exchange.

Not only the US has experienced this “boomerang effect” of past or present international policy, is also the case of France and the United Kingdom and their role in the former colonies or nations that have been under their dominance. National elites in these countries have a responsability but the presence of certain kind of national elites can not be fully understood without the presence of direct or indirect pressure of influential countries such as the US, France and the UK. The patterns of international migration has a close relation with this historical relation between US foreign policy and the role of national elites supported by the US for security strategies against the need of transparency and accountability of these elites in countries that expell people to the US or Europe.

However, in the US, France and Spain for example, the social perception about immigrants has been changing to a negative feeling about undocumented immigrants, in many cases due to Media and political manipulations of half-trues.

This account puts together different facts and data to prove that overall, immigrants change the face of many cities and towns in America for good and positive trends in economic growth and competitiveness for US services, tourism and hospitality industry, available work for construction and real estate growth, consumption, social and cultural diversity. And Immigrants are both the legal residents and the undocumented, at least 40% of undocumented are non-Mexicans, and of those, many com from Asia and far away places not only Central America and the Caribbean.

Arizona: Population and Labor Force Characteristics, 2000-2006

Arizona is the first state in the nation to enact a law that penalizes businesses for knowingly hiring unauthorized immigrants. The Legal Arizona Workers Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

In previous research, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there were 400,000 to 450,000 unauthorized migrants living in Arizona in 2005. The Center estimates that 65% of this population participates in the labor force,1 suggesting the presence of 260,000 to 292,500 unauthorized workers in Arizona in 2005. Based on these estimates, unauthorized migrants accounted for about 7% to 8% of Arizona's population and about 10% of its labor force.

This fact sheet presents a demographic profile of Arizona’s Hispanic and foreign-born populations in 2006. It is based on the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of the 2006 American Community Survey and the 2000 Decennial Census, both conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hispanics accounted for 29.1% of Arizona’s population in 2006, about double their share of the U.S. population (14.8%) that year. Arizona’s residents also included 926,000 foreign-born persons in 2006. These immigrants comprised 15.0% of the state’s population, slightly higher than the 12.5% share of immigrants in the U.S. population in 2006.

One notable aspect of Arizona’s immigrant Hispanic population is that it is disproportionately of Mexican origin. Because migrants from Mexico are more likely than migrants from other countries to be unauthorized (Passel, 2006), the large Mexican population boosts the share of undocumented workers in Arizona’s labor force. In the United States, it is estimated that 4.9% of the labor force is undocumented (Passel, 2006). As noted above, the estimated share of undocumented workers in Arizona’s labor force is double the national share.

In several other respects, however, the demographic trends in Arizona with regard to immigration are similar to those in the nation as a whole. For example, the proportion of the Latino population in Arizona that is foreign born is similar to the proportion of Latinos nationally. And while the Hispanic native- and foreign-born populations grew at a faster pace in Arizona than in the nation from 2000 to 2006, so did the non-Hispanic population. Consequently, on a percentage basis, Hispanics have contributed no more to population growth in Arizona than they have to the growth of the U.S. population.

The following sections of this fact sheet highlight key characteristics of Arizona’s population in 2006; changes in Arizona’s population from 2000 to 2006; and the key characteristics of Arizona’s labor force in 2006. Unless otherwise noted, all estimates are derived by the Pew Hispanic Center from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2000 Decennial Census. The tables in this fact sheet highlight key demographic and labor market characteristics of all Arizonans, all foreign-born persons, all Hispanics, native-born Hispanics and foreign-born Hispanics in total and by period of arrival.1 Some estimates for the United States also appear in the text for the sake of contrast with trends in Arizona. An Appendix includes detailed tables that are also the source for many of the estimates discussed below.

A Note on the Data Sources and Estimates

The specific data sets used to derived estimates for this fact sheet are from the University of Minnesota’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) for the American Community Survey (1% sample) and the Decennial Census (5% sample). Information on the IPUMS is available in: Steven Ruggles, Matthew Sobek, Trent Alexander, Catherine A. Fitch, Ronald Goeken, Patricia Kelly Hall, Miriam King and Chad Ronnander. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center [producer and distributor], 2004. Information can also be found on the following Web site:

The estimates in this fact sheet are subject to sampling error. Also, estimates in this fact sheet will differ from estimates that may be published by the Census Bureau because of differences between the data used by the Census Bureau and the data it releases for public use. Further information on Census data and on sampling error in the data is available at and

1 Persons born in Puerto Rico and other outlying territories of the U.S. are included in the native-born population. The terms “foreign born” and “immigrant” are used interchangeably in this fact sheet, as are the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.”

Arizona’s Hispanic and Foreign-Born Populations in 2006

Arizona was home to 6.2 million residents in 2006. Those residents included 1.8 million Hispanics. Thus, Hispanics represented 29.1% of Arizona’s population, about double their share of the U.S. population (14.8%). Arizona was also the residence of 926,000 foreign-born persons in 2006. They accounted for 15.0% of the population, slightly higher than the 12.5% share of immigrants in the U.S. population.

The Latino population in Arizona was made up of 1.1 million native-born persons and 666,000 who were foreign born. Thus, 37.0% of the Hispanic population in Arizona was foreign-born, slightly lower than the proportion for the country as a whole (39.9%). However, foreign-born Hispanics represented 10.8% of Arizona’s population, nearly double the nationwide share of 5.9%. Foreign-born Hispanics also dominated the immigrant population in Arizona. They represented 71.9% of all foreign-born residents in the state, much higher than the share of Hispanics (47.2%) in the total foreign-born population in the United States.

Most of the foreign-born Hispanic population in Arizona is recently arrived. About one-third—217,000 of 666,000—arrived in 2000 to 2006. Another third, 231,000, arrived in 1990 to 1999. In this respect, Arizona does not differ significantly from the nation, as about 60% of all Latino immigrants in the United States have arrived since 1990.

A distinguishing feature of Arizona’s immigrant population is that it is much more likely than the immigrant population of the nation at large to be of Mexican origin. The 610,000 foreign-born persons of Mexican origin accounted for 65.9% of all immigrants and 91.7% of immigrant Hispanics in Arizona. Nationwide, the corresponding proportions in 2006 were 30.4% and 64.3%.

The predominance of Mexicans in Arizona’s foreign-born population is significant because it suggests a higher proportion of its foreign-born population is unauthorized than in the United States generally. Passel (2006) estimated that 80 to 85% of the Mexican immigrants who arrived in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005 are unauthorized and that migrants from Mexico are the majority (56%) of the unauthorized population. Consistent with these estimates, the Pew Hispanic Center’s estimate of 400,000 to 450,000 unauthorized migrants in Arizona in 2005 indicates that 45.0 to 48.0% of its immigrant population and 6.9 to 7.7% of its total population are unauthorized. Those figures are considerably higher than Passel’s (2006) estimate that 30.6% of the foreign-born population and 3.8% of the total population in the United States in 2005 were unauthorized.

Most foreign-born Hispanics in Arizona (79.7%) are non-citizens. That figure compares with 72.3% of all foreign-born Latinos in the U.S. who were non-citizens in 2006. The majority (55.0%) of Hispanic immigrants in Arizona who arrived before 1990 also are non-citizens, compared with 47.2% in the United States.

The English-speaking ability of Latino immigrants (ages 5 and older) in Arizona is similar to that in the nation as a whole. Just 3.2% of foreign-born Hispanics in Arizona report speaking only English at home. Of the remainder, 23.4% say they speak English very well and 19.1% say they speak it well. The majority of foreign-born Hispanics say they speak English either not well (29.6%) or not at all (24.7%). The main difference between Arizona and the US is that somewhat fewer (19.6%) foreign-born Hispanics in the United States say they “speak English not at all.”

Males constitute the majority of the immigrant Latino population in Arizona. While Arizona’s overall population is equally divided between males and females, 55.1% of its foreign-born Hispanic population is male. The share of males is higher among newer arrivals—60.4% among Latino immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later years. In these respects, the foreign-born Latino population in Arizona does not differ significantly from the nation’s immigrant Latino population.

The age distributions of the native-born and foreign-born Hispanic populations are very different from each other and from the overall Arizona population. Native-born Latinos in Arizona are very young—nearly half (47.4%) are less than

16 years old. That compares with just 9.4% of the foreign born Hispanic population and 23.3% of the general population in Arizona. Looking at this another way, there were 1.4 million children younger than 16 in Arizona in 2006. Of that number, 599,000, or 41.7%, were Hispanic, the vast majority native born. Most foreign-born Hispanics (69.4%) in Arizona are in their prime working years, ages 25 to 64. That compares with 51.4% of Arizona’s total population.

Hispanic heads of households in Arizona are less likely than non-Hispanic household heads to live in owner-occupied homes (56.2% versus 68.3% for all Arizonans). Reflecting general trends in economic assimilation, homeownership among foreign-born Hispanics increases with time in the United States. In particular, the homeownership rate increased from 17.9% among immigrant Latinos who arrived in 2000 or later to 72.0% among those who arrived before 1990.

Hispanics in Arizona are more likely than non-Hispanics to live in family arrangements and in bigger families. Some 90.3% of Hispanics lived in family households, compared with 83.4% of all Arizonans. Latinos are less likely to live in two-person families (14.1% versus 29.2%) and more likely to live in families with five or more persons (43.3% versus 28.7%).

Population Change Since 2000

Population growth in Arizona from 2000 to 2006 was much higher than the national average. In total, Arizona’s population increased from 5.1 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2006, or 20.1%. That was considerably higher than the 6.4% increase in the nation’s population over the same period.

The non-Hispanic population in Arizona increased from 3.8 million to 4.4 million from 2000 to 2006, an increase of 13.7%. That also was a much higher increase than the 3.6% change in the nation’s non-Hispanic population.

The Latino population in Arizona increased from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.8 million in 2006, including 301,000 more native-born Hispanics and 204,000 more foreign-born Latinos. In percentage terms, the Latino population increased 39.0%, higher than the nationwide increase of 25.8%. Also, the native-born and foreign-born Latino populations in Arizona increased at a faster pace than nationally—36.2% versus 26.3% for the native born and 44.1% versus 25.2% for the foreign-born.

The proportion of Arizona’s population that is Hispanic increased from 25.2% in 2000 to 29.1% in 2006. The share of native-born Hispanics went up from 16.2% to 18.3%, and the share of foreign-born Hispanics increased from 9.0% to 10.8%. Nationally, Hispanics accounted for 12.5% of the U.S. population in 2000 and 14.8% in 2006.

Arizona’s population of male immigrants increased more than its population of female immigrants. Among foreign-born Latinos, the male population increased 48.8% from 2000 to 2006, compared with an increase of 38.7% in the female population. Among all foreign-born persons in Arizona, the male population increased 44.2%, compared with 35.4% for the female population. The gender gap in population growth is also present among immigrants in the United States as a whole, but it is much less pronounced.

Arizona’s total foreign-born population increased from 662,000 in 2000 to 926,000 in 2006—a change of 264,000, or 39.9%. That was nearly double the rate of the nationwide increase of 20.4% in the immigrant population. Arizona’s native-born population also increased rapidly, from 4.5 million to 5.2 million, or a change of 17.2% compared with 4.7% in the nation. Thus, the share of Arizona’s population that was foreign born did not increase sharply, climbing from 12.9% in 2000 to 15.0% in 2006. That compared with the share of population in the United States that was foreign born increasing from 11.1% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2006.

Despite several differences in population growth trends between Arizona and the nation, there was one key similarity. The share of Hispanics in Arizona’s population growth was virtually no different than their share in the nation’s

population growth. More specifically, Hispanics accounted for 48.9% of the total increase in Arizona’s population from 2000 to 2006. That was similar to the 50.6% of total U.S. population growth that Hispanics accounted for over the same time. Similarly, native-born and foreign-born Hispanics accounted for no more of the growth in Arizona’s population than in the nation generally. These similarities exist because the non-Hispanic and native-born populations in Arizona also increased at a rapid rate from 2000 to 2006.

Characteristics of the Labor Force in Arizona, 2006

The characteristics of Arizona’s labor force, not surprisingly, resemble the characteristics of its population. Foreign-born workers, especially of Mexican origin, play a larger role in Arizona than in the nation. These workers tend to have lower levels of education and are concentrated in blue-collar industries and occupations, such as construction and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance.

The civilian working-age population (16 and older) in Arizona was 4.7 million in 2006. Some 25.4% of the working-age population—1.2 million—was Hispanic. In the U.S. as a whole, Hispanics accounted for 13.2% of the working-age population in 2006. The Latino working-age population in Arizona is almost equally divided between the native born (592,000) and the foreign born (603,000). Nationally, a slight majority (53.5%) of the Hispanic working-age population is foreign born.

The Latino working-age population is less educated than average. Some 70.2% have a high school diploma or lower level of education, compared with 46.6% of Arizona’s total working-age population. Only 7.8% of working-age Hispanics have a college degree, compared with 22.2% of all working-age Arizonans. Thus, more than half of the 949,000 Arizonans (ages 16 and older) without a high school diploma were Hispanics—504,000, or 53.1%.

Not all working-age persons are part of the labor force, i.e., either employed or unemployed but actively looking for work. Arizona’s labor force in 2006 was 2.9 million—2.8 million employed and 147,000 unemployed. About 1.8 million working-age persons did not participate in the labor force.

There were 800,000 Hispanics in Arizona’s labor force in 2006. Of that number, 754,000 were employed (27.0% of total employment in Arizona) and 46,000 were unemployed (31.2% of total unemployment in Arizona). About half of the Hispanic labor force—410,000—was foreign born. They represented 13.9% of the entire labor force in Arizona.

The vast majority of foreign-born Hispanics in the labor force—325,000 of 410,000—are not U.S. citizens. Hispanic non-citizens represent 11.0% of Arizona’s labor force, double the nationwide share of 5.5%.

The construction industry is an important employer of foreign-born Hispanics. Some 28.3% of foreign-born Hispanics work in this industry alone, compared with 11.3% of all employed workers in Arizona. Looking at this another way, 34.9% of all workers in the construction industry in Arizona in 2006 were foreign-born Hispanics. Other industries in Arizona with relatively high shares of foreign-born Hispanics in their work forces include agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (47.1%); non-durable goods manufacturing (20.0%); arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food services (19.3%); and other services (17.8%).

There are five major occupations in Arizona in which foreign-born Hispanics account for at least one-fifth of employment: farming, fishing and forestry (64.2%); building and grounds cleaning and maintenance (49.7%); construction trades (43.3%); production (26.4%); and food preparation and serving (25.7%).

A Note on Labor Force Estimates From the American Community Survey

Labor force estimates in this fact sheet are derived from the ACS and they will differ from the labor force estimates released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program that surveys businesses about their payrolls. Estimates released by the BLS are considered more reliable and are the official indicators of employment and unemployment trends. See and for additional details.


Passel, Jeffrey S. “The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.,” Pew Hispanic Center (March 7, 2006).

Pew Hispanic Center. “Estimates of the Unauthorized Migrant Population for States based on the March 2005 CPS” (April 26, 2006).

Appendix: Detailed Tables on Arizona’s Population and Labor Force Characteristics, 2000-2006

Omar Leyba works as part of a Granite Construction Co. crew installing sidewalks and ramps along Duval Mine Road in Sahuarita. Hispanic workers like him make up more than four in 10 in Arizona construction, a new study found.

Kelly Presnell /Arizona Daily Star

By the numbers

Foreign-born Hispanics as percent of Arizona employment, by occupation:

13.9 percent

Foreign-born Hispanics in Arizona's work force.

64.2 percent

Farming, fishing, forestry

49.7 percent

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

43.3 percent

Construction trades

26.4 percent


25.7 percent

Food preparation and serving

25.0 percent

Source: Pew Hispanic Center 2008

Labor force snapshot (2006)

Category AZ U.S.

Total* 2,942 151,211

Hispanic 27.2% 13.8%

Foreign-born Hispanic 13.9% 7.6%

All foreign born 18.8% 15.6%

Non citizens 13.3% 9.0%

Unauthorized 9.4-10.5% 4.9%

*in thousands

Source: Pew Hispanic Center 2008