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New Estimates On Unauthorized Immigrant Workforce

Farm workers in Yuma, Ariz. harvesting and packing iceberg lettuce for Dole.
Kate Sheehy
Farm workers in Yuma, Ariz. harvesting and packing iceberg lettuce for Dole.

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Changes In Unauthorized Immigrant Workforce

Changes In Unauthorized Immigrant Workforce

TUCSON, Ariz. - The unauthorized immigrant workforce in the U.S. has remained relatively stable since the Great Recession began in 2007 to 2012, but there have been shifts in employment, according to new research. The data reveals the impact on industries in Arizona.  

Pew Research Center estimates show that unauthorized immigrants hold more professional positions and fewer blue collar jobs than before the recession. 

Kate Sheehy

Farm workers in Yuma, AZ harvesting and packing iceberg lettuce for Dole.

Still, in most states, including Arizona, they make up the highest share of the workforce in farming. KJZZ spoke with farmer Matt McGuire in Yuma in January about the decline in its primarily Mexican workforce. 

“That’s part of the reason why more mechanization has been done, because the labor pool is not as big as it was and as the economy gets better there will be tremendous demand from other industries taking this labor,” McGuire said.

He said in years past, the construction industry has taken people away from farm work.

Pew data shows that in Arizona, and nationally, construction has a large representation of unauthorized immigrants, although their share in this industry has dropped. 

Other research from Pew explains Arizona is one of 14 states where the unauthorized immigrant population has declined. This is due to the declining number of people coming to the state from Mexico. Unauthorized immigrants account for 6 percent of the total labor force in Arizona which is higher than the national share of 5.1 percent.

Kate Sheehy is very happy to find herself back with Fronteras: The Changing America Desk as a Senior Field Correspondent in Tucson. Sheehy thinks being a reporter is the most amazing job because no other profession allows you to learn about a variety of subjects and provides the chance to meet people from different walks of life.