Illegal Aliens Outpace Legals
Illegal immigration into the United States regularly outstrips legal permanent immigration and showed a dramatic increase from 2003 to 2004, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The annual number of legal and illegal immigrants and legal temporary visitors peaked at about 1.5 million in 2000, dropped to 1.1 million in 2003 and has rebounded slightly since, said the authors of the report, which studied immigration trends in the past 13 years.

Illegal immigration topped legal immigration in four of the past 10 years. And much of the 2004 rebound in immigration can be attributed to the number of new illegal aliens -- 110,000 more than in 2003, the report said.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the high percentage of illegal aliens shows that the immigration system is broken.

"To reverse that trend, immigration reform must be comprehensive and address both enforcement and improved avenues for legal immigration," he said.

Mr. Cornyn, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration, border security and citizenship subcommittee, pushed to pass his guest-worker bill.

The bill would allow illegal aliens up to five years to return home, and would create a visa program to allow foreign workers to fill jobs temporarily if there are no U.S. workers available.

U.S. Border Patrol agents have said illegal immigration increased after President Bush announced his plans for a new foreign worker program in January 2004. The agents said illegal aliens were coming across the border in hopes of gaining a path to citizenship through an amnesty.

The report released yesterday was written by demographer Jeffrey S. Passel and Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

They said the report shows immigration patterns can change.

"The flow of immigration is not this inexorable constant increase," Mr. Suro said.

They said immigration follows economic trends and pointed to the availability of jobs in the U.S. as a factor drawing immigrants. Particularly bad economic times in other countries cause an increase in migration from those areas, they said.

The report said the annual number of new immigrants averaged about 1.27 million from 1992 to 1997, 1.54 million in 1999 and 2000, and about 1.16 million from 2002 to 2004.

Mexico is the largest source of immigrants, sending at least 500,000 persons per year during the peak. The report said the number dropped during 2002 and 2003, but recent numbers show "the possibility of a sizable increase in Mexican immigration levels by 2004."

The report used data from the 2000 census and two yearly surveys: the American Community Survey and the March supplements to the Current Population Survey.