Number of undocumented immigrants rises in Florida

A Pew Research Center report released Tuesday shows Florida’s population of undocumented immigrants has increased.

Between 2009 to 2012, about 55,000 new immigrants chose to settle in Florida. Only New Jersey saw a larger increase with about 75,000 immigrants choosing to settle there.

The surge brings Florida’s total population of undocumented immigrants to an estimated 925,000. Only Texas and California have larger populations of people living in the U.S. illegally.

“These statistics are not surprising and underscores the immediate need to secure the border before any other action can be taken,” said U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs.

Ricardo Skerrett, an immigration attorney in Southwest Florida, said he is not surprised by the increase of undocumented residents in Florida.

“Florida is a big agricultural state so we are going to have big immigration here,” Skerrett said.

Natalia Jaramillo, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, agrees.

The two largest economic sectors of the state are agriculture and service industries, which employ a large number of immigrants, Jaramillo said.

“Immigration has had a positive impact on the state, like the two largest sectors — agriculture and tourism — are built on the backs of immigrants,” said Jaramillo, community manager for the coalition.

Additionally, in 2011, many of Florida’s neighboring states adopted controversial laws that were anti-immigrant in nature, Jaramillo said.

“Those laws encouraged people to flee those states,” Jaramillo said.

Grey Torrico, a volunteer with the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, said she isn’t surprised by the report because of the 2010 census.

“There was actually a huge spike of the number of Latinos that were in Southwest Florida,” Torrico said.

It largely has to do with the various systematic ways that other states have restricted mobility for immigrants, Torrico added.

According to the report, President Barack Obama has said his intention is to take executive action to give deportation relief to some of the population in the country illegally.

“If we are going to have real immigration reform we have to stop talk about silly things like securing the border,” said Skerrett, the attorney.

The AP and Ledyard King, News-Press Washington Bureau, contributed to this report.

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